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University of Utah Makes Big Cuts in Water Usage

July 25, 2002 — The University of Utah’s water conservation efforts are paying off in a big way. The most recent water meter readings from the Salt Lake City public utility office show the University used 36.6% less water in May of 2002, compared to the same month last year. The U also showed a big decrease in water usage for June of 2002, saving 22.6% over last year.

Plant Operations Director Pete van der Have is in charge of the University’s plan to save water. He says we all have to do our part to conserve during the four-year drought Utah has been weathering. “The University of Utah, as a good citizen in this community, is excited about its successes in reducing water consumption. We have been able to achieve this by implementing a significant reduction of irrigation cycles on the golf course and other large landscaped areas, by replacing the turf in Rice-Eccles Stadium with an artificial turf system, and by increasing the level of maintenance on sprinkler systems, as well as our cooling towers, to make sure that they operate at peak levels of efficiency.”

The savings percentages are based on Salt Lake City water meter readings measured in cubic feet. In May 2001 the University used 9,225,200 cubic feet, compared to 5,849,400 cubic feet this year. James Lewis with the city’s Public Utility office is responsible for gathering and interpreting the numbers. He has been tracking conservation efforts. “Over all, we’re only seeing about a 15% reduction in water consumption over last year, so the University’s effort is particularly good.”

Making dramatic cuts in water consumption has not been easy. The University has simply stopped watering many of its larger lawns. Even the nine-hole golf course is mostly brown. Only the greens are being watered in a manner acceptable to most other public courses. Even though the University’s conservation efforts have been difficult, van der Have says the U is committed to doing more. “We continue to experiment with other water saving devices, such as waterless urinals.”

The University’s water conservation plan is just part of a broader policy to become more efficient and environmentally friendly. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the nation’s largest member-supported conservation advocacy and education group, recently named the University of Utah as one of 14 American institutions of higher education leading the way in energy efficiency and conservation.

Schools recognized as exemplary in energy efficiency and conservation have some percentage of electricity and heating and cooling needs met by renewable resources; have water efficiency upgrades, lighting efficiency upgrades, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades in at least some campus units; and have developed efficiency design codes for new or existing buildings and implemented life-cycle analysis for energy project evaluation in at least some campus units.