Water use decreases due to fixture installations

Feb. 16, 2015

April Wefler

Campus water use has decreased by about 500,000 cubic feet in the last four years despite campus growth and increased square footage, said assistant sustainability director Kevin Gilford.

UCCS spent just under $300,000 on about 5.5 million cubic feet of water in 2014, which Gilford said was a change from 2013.

He said low-water use fixtures on campus, such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads, are the primary reasons for the decrease.

“We’ve been able to take advantage of rebates from Colorado Springs Utilities when we installed the low-flow showerheads, low-flush toilets, so that’s helped get some money back from the utilities.”

In 2013, the Green Action Fund financed the introduction of low-flow showerheads to campus. Last summer, all of the toilets were replaced in Summit Village.

Water on campus is used both domestically and outside in irrigation and landscaping. Domestic water use includes faucets, flushing, showers, as well as the pools and spa in the Rec Center.

Gilford said the campus uses xeriscape planting when applicable to reduce water use outdoors.

“Freshwater is a precious resource, particularly here in Colorado and we have to import our water from the western slope and places like that,” Gilford said.

“We just have to be very wise with the water that we use and understand that it’s essential to life and to our way of life and the more we can do to use it wisely now will be better for us and for future generations.”

Mike Core, water and energy outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said he uses watering plans to save water in his home.

“We water at night in conditions with low wind to help prevent evaporation from the lawn so it can take in more water,” said Core, a senior majoring in geography and environmental studies.

Additionally, Core and his housemates have a garden.

“[It] reduces our carbon footprint [and] lowers our water use because our vegetables aren’t being trucked in from across the country.”

Before becoming the water and energy outreach coordinator, Core had two internships that influenced him to start thinking about how much water we use.

“The things that we put in the drain are going down to the next community of people and actually like 200 communities of people beyond that,” he said.

“We all have to use essentially the same water and we’re very fortunate because we get the fresh water. Everyone else below us has to use our used water,” he added.

Gilford said people can help conserve water by simply turning off the faucet when they’re brushing their teeth.

“People in other countries don’t seem to do that; it’s an American habit. So wet your toothbrush and clean it off when you’re done, no need to let the water run,” Gilford said.

He added that Colorado is a semi-arid state with about 14 inches of precipitation annually on average. The state is currently in a drought, “which we see manifested from the various fires.”

Gilford said that taking shorter showers and watering lawns as little as possible will also reduce water use.

He said that if anyone sees a toilet that’s running, a faucet that won’t shut off or a broken sprinkler, to notify Facilities Services and they will get it fixed to make sure the water isn’t being wasted.

The Office of Sustainability hosts Campus Conservation Nationals every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in The Lift, The Lodge or Breckenridge. CCN educates people to use less energy and water.

“We’ve had good turnouts and there’s been a good crowd and it’s a nice atmosphere. I think people would enjoy themselves,” said Core, adding that the event also has free food.

Gilford said that CCN is more focused on energy than water use, but that they do educate CCN attendees about how much water is used to produce energy.

“We have to be aware that even our energy use consumes a lot of water, so anything we can do to reduce our energy can reduce our water use,” he said.

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