Every Drop Counts: UCSF Works to Conserve Water to Help Meet State Mandate

By Kathleen Masterson

This fountain at Laurel Heights is one of several across UCSF campuses that have been shut off to conserve water. Photo by Susan Merrell

As California experiences its fourth year of severe drought, UCSF is stepping up its ongoing water conservation efforts to further reduce our impact.  

Thanks to forward-thinking planners who incorporated efficient water design into new facilities at Mission Bay, as well as other reductions in laboratories, irrigation and other uses across campus, the university has drastically reduced its water use in the past few years.   

Still, with the deepening water crisis, UCSF is working to take additional and immediate action to further conserve and help the State meet Governor Jerry Brown’s mandate of an overall reduction of 25 percent water reduction by Feb 2016.

Here are some highlights of recent water conservation efforts at UCSF:

  • Reducing irrigation and planting drought-tolerant landscapes. UCSF has reduced watering by 30 percent and converted some lawn areas to drought tolerant plantings. The University is also upgrading and retrofitting irrigation components, including installing “evapotranspiration meters,” which will measure how much water is being lost to evaporation and avoid watering during high loss times. 
  • Managing green roofs. Cutting back on irrigation for the terraced grass roofs at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research (IRM Building) will save an estimated 700,000 gallons of water this year.      
  • Finding ways to make UCSF laboratories more water efficient. By analyzing the operations such as glass washing and taking inventory of equipment (like old faucets) within the labs, UCSF will be able to take advantage of SFPUC rebate programs to update old equipment and pilot more water-efficient options (like faucets with foot pedals and laminar flow restrictors).
  • Reducing washing schedules of fleets and buildings. In 2014, UCSF reduced fleet washing to once a month. The University has also switched to pressure washing only as needed, instead of routine washing.
  • Studying and monitoring our water use. UCSF has contracted with a consultant to study water re-use to investigate options for rainwater capture and water recycling. Other efforts are underway to enable daily data collection so facilities could monitor their water use and adjust accordingly. 
  • Efficient showers and toilets at the new medical center. Hospitals are among the biggest water hogs. Water use per patient can reach upwards of 350 gallons per day, far above the average American’s use of 150 gallons daily. The UCSF hospitals at Mission Bay have dual-flush toilets and low-flow, high-efficiency showers and basins. With these and other conservation efforts, the medical center is expected to save nearly 4 million gallons of potable water each year.

For more internal-facing stories from the UCSF community, please visit Pulse of UCSF.