On campus: Making every drop count

For decades, members of the UCSC community have worked hard to reduce the amount of water used on a campus that was growing to meet the increased educational demands of California students. Twenty years ago, in the 1993-94 year, students, faculty, and staff on campus used a total of 170 million gallons of water. Campus water use in 2012-13—the most recent full year—totaled 178 million gallons. In those two decades, UCSC's student population increased by almost 7,000, or 70 percent.

"Through an investment in water-saving projects, ongoing education efforts, and the value that our students themselves have placed on sustainability, we've continued to bring down our per-capita water use," said Lacey Raak, who serves as UCSC's sustainability director. "While the number of students on campus increased pretty dramatically in those 20 years, our overall use of water increased at a much lower rate."

Still, the current water emergency has members of the UCSC community needing to do more.

In February, the Santa Cruz City Council announced that mandatory water rationing will begin on May 1. "Like other Santa Cruz water customers, we will have to reduce our water use significantly," Raak said. "As a community partner, we will do our part during this water crisis."

With a reduction of nearly 25 percent required by the city, UCSC has established a campus-wide Water- Use Curtailment Working Group that is identifying new short-term conservation strategies, accelerating conservation projects, and ensuring compliance with the city's water emergency rationing.

Toward that end, UCSC has also been getting the word out about conservation tips. "Imagine the collective impact if we all step up to this challenge," Chancellor George Blumenthal said in a campus-wide message in early February that promoted water-saving habits.

Five-minute timers are being placed in campus showers, educational posters about water use have been posted in "high traffic" areas, and students are even competing among themselves to see which college can reduce the most.

"At UCSC," Raak said, "our students don't have to be told to step up to an environmental challenge." Learn more about campus efforts to conserve water.