By Angeline Foshay
It’s no secret that California has been suffering at the constricting hands of drought for the past few years.
In January of 2015, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and by April ordered mandatory water reductions of 25% in urban areas. In order to meet the mandatory reductions, local Goleta Water District has been asked to reduce its potable water use by 12% within the next year.
While UC Santa Barbara has already met the UC wide policy measures requiring all campuses to cut water consumption 20% by 2020, new goals have been set in place to show campus solidarity with the community of Goleta. UCSB has committed to reducing potable water consumption 12% by March 2016. If accomplished, these reductions between June 2014 and March 2016 would account for more than 19 million gallons of potable water saved.
To expand the success of our current water conservation programs, UCSB will be ramping up outreach and education campaigns to encourage water use changes, will convert remaining potable-watered landscapes over to recycled water irrigation, and will install water-saving technologies in labs to reduce waste.
Many of you may have noticed that not all of the lawns on campus have turned brown to reflect the severity of the drought, but you may also have spotted UCSB Sustainability’s poster boards as well. They state that 90% of UCSB’s landscaping water is recycled, utilizing water that otherwise would have been returned to the ocean. Matt O’Carroll, water, refuse and recycling manager at UCSB, hopes that this number can reach 98% by next spring. “Some campuses don’t have an alternative source of water like we do, so we’re a making conscious effort to utilize it,” he said.
In the university labs, the LabRATS (Laboratory Resources, Advocates, and Teamwork for Sustainability) program is looking to find innovative water reduction technologies and ideas to further reduce waste. One of their primary ideas is the closed loop water condenser, which would use a continual stream of recycled water to cool lab equipment and chemical reactions. This technology alone is expected to reduce UCSB’s water use by 3%.
While these approaches are essential to reducing campus water use and increasing efficiency, the most important way to reduce water waste is community engagement in water conservation. As O’Carroll put it, “Right now our biggest challenge is how to keep predominantly the same community engaged with the same water conservation ideas. A lot of the reductions we’ve already achieved are the result of our campus community responding to our need to conserve water. They’re doing a fantastic job. We just need to keep it up.”
The drought affects us all, and, as a campus and a community, it’s essential to do our part in water use reduction.