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Sustainable Water Use

Stanford practices sustainable water use by managing available resources to meet university needs while preserving ecological systems and maintaining this vital resource for future generations.

We receive potable water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which draws water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada and local watersheds to serve 27 Bay Area cities and agencies. Nearly 75 percent of campus irrigation water comes from creeks and wells on Stanford land.

Our current potable water use is well below our average-day SFPUC allocation of 3.033 million gallons. Stanford’s water conservation, reuse and recycling program is one of the most aggressive in the Bay Area, with full implementation expected to save more than 0.6 million gallons per day (mgd) – or 20 percent of the university’s total allocation.

We’re developing a Sustainable Water Management Plan to guide our long-term water supply development, water conservation, wastewater and storm-water management and habitat conservation programs. We’re also collaborating with regional water agencies on all aspects of water management and monitoring efforts by California agencies to determine sustainable yields from regional water sources.

In January 2007, Stanford became the first university to join the California Urban Water Conservation Council. Membership gives us the chance to work with experts on innovative technologies and processes, comment on new proposals or legislation and share our experience in improving water efficiency.

Stanford has received the 2009 Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award. This award honors outstanding achievements in water conservation among businesses, local governments, organizations, and individuals in the Silicon Valley region. “Recognizing the primacy of water issues to the health and economic vitality of our region and to the environment, the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards are presented to organizations, agencies, businesses and individuals whose programs and leadership have advanced water conservation in Silicon Valley (San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, and Alameda County from Hayward south)”.

Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards

New Research Initiative on Testing Waste Water Resources Recovery

Stanford researchers and SEM Water Systems Group staff are collaborating on an exciting project to test recovery of clear water, energy and valuable materials from wastewater. The new test facility located on Bonair Siding will test new wastewater technologies to demonstrate their effectiveness and full-scale implementation potential. This is a joint effort among faculty researchers from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Stanford-led Engineering Research Center “Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure” (ReNUWIt), and campus sustainability practitioners in Water Services and Civil Infrastructure in Sustainability and Energy Management.

Goals & Results

Key goals are to continuously improve our successful water conservation program, develop new strategies to maximize use of surface runoff and preserve treated domestic water for critical campus uses, and protect water-dependent habitat.

The university completed 50 major water efficiency retrofit projects from 2001 through 2008, pushing down average domestic use from 2.7 mgd in 2000–01 to 2.3 mgd in 2007–08, despite campus growth. Other results include:

  • Retrofits in student housing have cut water use by about 120 million gallons annually since 2001 – a 37 percent reduction.
  • Replacing once-through cooling systems in laboratories with recirculating systems that reuse the cold water has saved about 0.174 mgd.
  • Installation of 58 water-saving devices on sterilizers reduced water use by about 0.084 mgd.
  • At Stanford dining facilities, replacing standard dishwashers with trough conveyers that constantly recycle water cut water use by about 142 gallons per hour – a 51 percent savings.

2001 through 2009 key water conservation accomplishments

We continue to improve water efficiency in existing buildings through maintenance and retrofits, and to educate campus users about the need for water conservation on the personal and community levels.

In addition, the university has established guidelines to reduce water use in new buildings by at least 25 percent, compared with similar existing buildings, and new projects to advance water recycling and reuse are under way.

2001-2009 key water conservation projects