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UCLA plans five projects to reduce water usage by 2020

By Tala Ahmadi

Feb. 19, 2014 1:10 a.m.

UCLA has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars and implemented five projects to meet its required goal of reducing water usage by 11 percent over the next six years.

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced last month all UC campuses must meet a 20 percent reduction in water usage by 2020. UCLA officials started their own water reduction campaign more than a decade ago.

UCLA currently uses about 956 million gallons of water per year, or about 16,000 gallons per person. UCLA has reduced its water usage per person by 9 percent in the last 15 years. But it only has six years to reduce it by the additional 11 percent needed to reach the 2020 goal.

“I think it will be challenging but I believe we can get there,” said Nurit Katz, chief sustainability officer for UCLA Facilities Management.

With a campus of about 70,000 people, water reduction initiatives are costly and challenging, especially because of the state and university’s recent budget troubles, Katz said.

Last month, UCLA released a plan consisting of five initiatives to reach its 2020 goal, including changes to the intramural turf field and installing water filtration systems in UCLA buildings.

One of the projects introduced in the plan, transforming the Hill into a more environmentally conscious living space, is already being implemented.

“Whenever we do a remodel or renovation we are upping all of the water saving devices so they are beating current code standards,” said Aliana Lungo-Shapiro, a sustainability manager for UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services.

Efficient shower heads, low-flow aerators and ultra low-flush toilets are currently being installed into new and remodeled buildings to conserve 4.3 million gallons per year. The updates will cost Housing and Hospitality Services about $170,000, according to the plan.

The most ambitious and potentially effective initiative in UCLA’s plan is the creation of a new wastewater treatment plant, Katz said. The plant would recycle half a million gallons of wastewater a day generated by the 11,000 undergraduates who live on campus in UCLA’s energy plant cooling towers.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would construct the plant and oversee the project. The initiative, however, is still in its initial phases and is currently being researched by Department of Water and Power officials to determine if the project is feasible.

The plant is the cornerstone initiative of the plan and would save 144 million gallons of water per year, said Tracy Dudman, senior planner for UCLA Capital Programs. The initiative would reduce water use by four times more gallons of water than all the plan’s other initiatives combined.

The cost and source of funding for the plant has yet to be determined as the project is still in the early stages of development.

The Intramural Field will also undergo a major change later this year. The field will be converted from grass to artificial turf to save 6.4 million gallons per year. The costs for the conversion have yet to be determined, but the change will be funded by UCLA Recreation, UCLA Facilities Management and donations, Katz and Dudman said.

The plan also includes a new pilot greywater system in UCLA’s Tiverton House, a hotel for Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center patients and their families. The system would capture 190,000 gallons of water per year from the facility and filter it to provide irrigation water for UCLA’s landscaping. The system will be funded by the UCLA Health System, but the cost has not yet been determined.

While the initiative may not contribute greatly to reducing water usage, the larger purpose of the pilot greywater system is to find strategies for implementing similar systems in other campus buildings and to find other ways to recycle water, according to the plan.

The installation of a water filtration system at UCLA’s cogeneration plant in the next year is expected to save 25.5 million gallons per year. The plant recirculates water seven times, until the water is too contaminated to use, to cool its towers. The new filtration system would filter this contaminated water so the plant can run it through its cooling towers again.

The filtration system will cost $600,000 and will be covered by facilities management, Katz said.

While the five initiatives will help the university reach its 2020 goal, the UCLA community as a whole must commit to taking individual measures to reduce water usage, Lungo-Shapiro said.

Students can assist in water reduction by taking shorter showers, doing laundry only when they have full loads, turning off the faucet and reporting leaks to facilities management.

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Tala Ahmadi
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