Campus wins best practice award for drought planning and water savings

Joe Dizon installs a cellular beacon on a water meter at a house on Dickens Way. The beacons will help the campus manage water usage and detect leaks.
Patrick Testoni, campus energy manager, and the water efficiency award, with Rachael Nava, a UC Santa Cruz alumna and executive vice president, chief operating officer at the UC Office of the President.  (Photo by Hagop’s Photography)

UC Santa Cruz won a best practice award for drought planning and water conservation efforts at the 2015 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference hosted by San Francisco State University.

The campus was able to meet Santa Cruz city mandatory water usage restrictions because of nearly 10 years of previous planning and collaboration with city water officials. From June 2014 to January 2015, the campus saved 27.81 million gallons of water and approximately $280,000 in water utility bills.

"This project highlights the effectiveness of collaborative relationships in meeting seemingly impossible goals," said Campus Energy Manager Patrick Testoni. The savings resulted from water efficiency projects, web-based water management, and extensive campus engagement, he said.

The award came in the 2015 Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Best Practice competition in the category of Water Efficiency and Site Water Quality.

Beginning in 2007, the campus developed a strategic water master plan that then served as the basis for water conservation efforts when the drought became apparent four years ago. Representatives from units across campus meet monthly to review water usage. UCSC first tested a web-based water management system that allows individual campus users to view their water usage on an hourly basis. Then, based on its success, the campus has installed the cellular-based transmitters on all campus water meters.

A water conservation student intern team helped communicate the conservation message to students and staff and helped identify and report leaks.