Campus water conservation efforts continue through summer

Tracy Lam/Staff

Related Posts

Summer session students relaxing on Memorial Glade may notice the recent effects of the state-mandated water conservation efforts on the once lush, green field.

With increasing water-usage restrictions, Memorial Glade’s lawn is looking increasingly brown and patchy, despite twice-weekly waterings — the maximum number of waterings allowed by the state. This change is part of various water-saving efforts implemented by the campus, particularly in the summer months.

Though Memorial Glade is a historic UC Berkeley landmark, rising sophomore Annie Lockmiller said she would be “OK with (the university) watering less … in order to conserve water for more important things.”

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the drought is in the middle of its fourth year of record-low water levels caused by significantly less rainfall and snowpack during the winter, depleting local reservoirs.

The restrictions that have been implemented districtwide are an attempt to prepare “in case there’s another dry winter,” said East Bay Municipal Utility District spokesperson Abby Figueroa. According to Figueroa, water usage dramatically increases during the summer — sometimes as much as double or triple people’s usage during the winter.

Figueroa added that these restrictions will end only when the drought ends.

“(The drought is) a real, ongoing emergency. It has the potential to have a very serious impact on our daily lives if this continues for a couple more years,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is just be ready in case there’s another dry winter. And that’s going to mean even tougher restrictions next year.”

Campus real estate spokesperson Christine Shaff noted the need for UC Berkeley students on campus this summer to continue water-saving tactics, such as turning off the sink while brushing teeth, shaving and washing dishes, and being ever-mindful of leaks.

Though the spring semester ended in May, the UC Berkeley Summer Sessions draw a significant population of more than 16,000 students every summer, with almost 4,000 of them being non-UC Berkeley students.

Like Lockmiller, Figueroa said that many tend to focus on outdoor water usage. Shaff acknowledged that this is an area where the campus is working to reduce water usage. But irrigation constitutes less than 10 percent of overall water usage, while UC Berkeley’s labs account for 30 percent.

Although the amount of water that labs use is significant, Lockmiller said she sees why the campus wouldn’t stop the labs’ water usage since she said they contribute socially and educationally, while fields and landscapes do not.

“(Watering the grounds) is a luxury and not a priority, and if that is a place to save water, then it should be cut,” Lockmiller said.

The campus’s Facilities Services is actively working to replace grassy areas with low irrigation and water-usage areas across campus — an easier task than upgrading lab equipment, which would require a larger investment, according to Shaff.

Facilities Services has been working with the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability and Energy to survey water usage in specific buildings and to look for opportunities to retrofit any bathroom fixtures that require more water than necessary, Shaff said.

Shaff said the campus will continue to work toward reducing water usage over the summer, including its ongoing efforts to retrofit and replace facilities.

“We want to work towards reducing water no matter what. Water use per person on the campus is down 20 percent in the past 10 years,” Shaff said. “Your use can make a difference.”

Contact Sophia Zepeda at [email protected].