How are Utah’s public colleges and universities conserving water on campus?

Amid concerns over an abnormally dry winter, Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order last week instituting water conservation practices for state agencies in Utah. Institutions in the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) have been working to conserve water on their campuses, from planting native plants and changing watering habits to installing water-wise bathroom facilities and state-of-the-art filtration systems. Below is an overview of the efforts of several of the public colleges and universities in the state.

University of Utah

  • New buildings on campus must achieve 30% more indoor water efficiency than a baseline building. All new fixtures, such as toilets, faucets, showers and urinals, must be EPA WaterSense labeled. Retrofits to water fixtures in existing buildings must be similarly low-flow and water efficient.
  • The landscaping surrounding all new buildings on campus must reduce the landscaping water requirement by at least 50% from a baseline building, which is achieved by choosing water-wise plants as well as high-efficiency irrigation.
  • New buildings all contain water meters that record the building’s use of water both indoors and outdoors, which helps campus target high-use buildings to become more efficient and to identify and fix leaks.
  • Landscape Management installed a high-efficiency, central computer-based irrigation system in 2012 called Maxicom that helps to optimize irrigation needs on campus. Maxicom waters areas based on both rainfall meas­­urements provided by the U’s weather station and the specific water needs of the plant systems that are scheduled to be irrigated. Maxicom also notifies Landscape of any leaks in main distribution lines so they can be fixed immediately.
  • Irrigation on campus occurs only between the hours of 6 pm and 10 am. The only exceptions to this are with new landscape establishment or new sod projects where the landscape is watered as needed until established, or when the irrigation system is tested and maintained. The U avoids installing new landscapes during the heat of June, July and August.
  • In addition to several water-wise projects in past years, this summer, Landscape Management is replacing 30,000 square feet of turf grass with water-wise plants and is focusing on grouping plants and shrubs with similar water needs to reduce irrigation demand.
  • More info on the U’s water conservation efforts

Weber State University

  • The Ada Lindquist Plaza pond has the dual purpose of beautifying Weber State University and serving as a catch basin to recycle more than 1.2 million gallons of irrigation water per week.
  • With the aid of the pond, WSU reclaims 50% of its landscaping water and also has added water conserving landscaping, native plants and drip irrigation to areas on campus.
  • 10 years ago, Weber State began installing an automated irrigation control system. Using live weather readings, the system adjusts or shuts down for factors such as humidity and temperature, so sprinklers don’t run when it’s raining or windy.
  • WSU recently added a water conservation specialist to address issues such as irrigation auditing.
  • WSU has installed low-flow urinals and water-efficient faucets in bathrooms and drinking fountains that refill water bottles.

Southern Utah University

  • SUU planted areas of xeriscaping and drought tolerant plants to lower the use of irrigation water and the use of fossil fuels for mowing and weedeating.
  • The university utilized secondary water from 800 W to the freeway for irrigation purposes. (Currently assessing the use of secondary water in other areas of campus.)
  • Also, it utilized the Maxi-com irrigation management system, using current weather data, to lower the usage of irrigation water whenever it rains. Watering only occurs during overnight hours for maximum irrigation efficiency.
  • SUU installed 42 waterless urinals on the SUU campus, saving 40,000 gallons of fresh water annually on each urinal.

Snow College

  • Snow College made irrigation/sprinkler upgrades on campus that will save about 30% of its water use.
  • The Facilities Office at Snow College will be working with Ephraim City as the water supply and needs change to reduce or help as needed.

Dixie State University

  • DSU only waters from 10pm to 7am.
  • The university invested $250,000 on a new water filtration system to process secondary water, which is used for irrigation. The filter system does not allow dirt to clog up and alter proper shut-off of watering valves which prevents overwatering.
  • DSU planted a hybrid Bermuda sod on the lower mall which requires much less water than traditional grass.
  • DSU mows all non-athletic fields at a slightly higher level, which allows for less water use as the taller blades provide better shade for the roots.
  • The university will be removing traditional pop-up sprinkler heads and replacing them with high-impact rotary heads, which improves water coverage and reduces watering times.

Utah Valley University

  • UVU uses water from Provo River during most of the irrigation season.  It owns water shares that came with the purchase of the campus.  UVU uses city water only when the canal is not running at the beginning of the season, and does not water between 10am and 6pm.
  • It has two weather stations that talk to its water control system; if it’s too windy or has rained enough, the system will be told not to run. UVU has reduced watering over the past few years from more than 70 inches of water used on the landscape down to around 40 inches during the year.
  • UVU removed some sod areas and replaced those areas with stone.
  • The university repairs any damaged lines and heads as soon as they are identified to prevent water loss.
  • UVU uses low-flow toilet flushers and low-flow faucets in all restrooms.

Salt Lake Community College

  • By using equipment that measures evapotranspiration, SLCC is watering its lawns at four campuses only when needed, saving tens of thousands of gallons of water.
  • SLCC facilities crews have installed low-flow toilets and faucets and bottle-filling stations for personal use at all of its campuses.
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Trisha Dugovic
Communications Director