UCSC launches reclaimed water study

Building on a strong foundation of water conservation and management, UC Santa Cruz is initiating a study to assess the feasibility of developing an on-campus system for reclaiming and recycling water. The assessment will identify practical ways to store and use reclaimed water in new campus development. It complements another UCSC analysis--a six-month study of water efficiency throughout the campus--which is nearing completion.

"The campus remains very committed to conserving water and reducing loss or waste wherever possible," said Frank Zwart, campus architect. "With completion of the water efficiency analysis, we are turning our attention to exploring new and innovative practices for reclaiming and recycling water."

Steve Paul, the campus engineer who will oversee the feasibility study for the water reclamation and recycling project, noted that reclaiming water is emerging as a standard practice in California. "Many water districts in the state are turning to reclaimed water to bolster the supply side of the water balance equation," he said.

Sources of reclaimed water could include rainwater, gray water (household water from sinks, showers, or baths), cooling tower wastewater, and treated water from the sanitary sewer. Reclaimed water can be used for building cooling, irrigation, and toilet flushing.

The study will assess the potential for reclaimed water use on campus and present a plan to use reclaimed water in new development. It will also take a close look at the potential for recycled water to assist in meeting the campus's existing summer demand for irrigation and building cooling. Summer is a critical period each year because the City of Santa Cruz water system is most vulnerable to water shortages at that time.

The study, which is expected to be completed by June 2008, will also include an implementation schedule for such a program.

The campus's water use, which represents about 5 percent of the demand from the Santa Cruz Water Department, is reflective of an agressive conservation effort that has been in place for approximately two decades. Since 1986, per-capita water usage on campus has been reduced by 36 percent. In fact, UCSC used only 19 percent more water in 2003 than it did in 1986.

The campus has nearly completed the water efficiency study in which nearly 300 buildings and over 5,000 plumbing fixtures have been surveyed.

"This most recent study identified areas where there is still room for improvement for water conservation," Paul said. For example, the efficiency study has inventoried several hundred toilets installed before 1994 that met the standard of 3.5 gallons per flush at the time, but are not meeting today's new-construction standard of 1.6 gallons per flush.

The survey team is currently assessing high-use facilities in order to determine priorities and develop an implementation program for retrofitting plumbing fixtures to meet current water conservation standards.

Note to reporters: Frank Zwart is available to discuss these studies. To arrange an interview, please contact the Public Information Office at (831) 459-2495.