Water conservation top-priority for CSUN

Kimberly Krieger

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CSUN is going to great measures to conserve water on campus by installing waterless urinals in the men's bathrooms. Photo Credit: Ryan Hecksel / Staff Photographer

Los Angeles has a growing population but a shrinking water supply. This is where Bill Sullivan, energy manager for physical plant management (PPM) at CSUN comes in.

“Water conservation is a more current issue than it used to be because water used to be so cheap,” said Sullivan, who has been with  PPM since 1994.

Now that a change is warranted, Sullivan said CSUN receives incentive money for water-saving projects from both the Department of Water and Power (DWP) and the Metropolitan Water District.

One incentive of $108,000 was issued to use waterless urinals on campus, Sullivan said.

“Up until recently, we noticed the biggest changes due to waterless urinals,” Sullivan added.

Buildings such as Sierra Hall and Nordhoff Hall had old urinals that used three gallons of water per flush, Sullivan said.  In December, the new waterless model replaced 265 urinals.
“In January, we noticed we were half of what we were (in water use) last January,” Sullivan said.

Though this is true on paper, Sullivan added that due to the heavy rain season, it will take time to have a long-running comparison.

Sullivan said there are now 62 controllers for a computer-based irrigation system on campus and the incentive for this was $347,000. Connected through Ethernet, the system determines how much water is needed in certain sprinkler systems and avoids watering when it isn’t necessary.

“If it’s too windy, it won’t water,” Sullivan said. “If it has rained, it won’t (water) because it also measures rainfall.”

The irrigation system calculates exactly how fast the evaporation rate is and bases water rationing on that rather than on what time it is. Sullivan said  this creates a more efficient system for water use on campus.

“We have kind of tied technology and nature together,” Sullivan said.

Nancy Kurland, a professor in management and member of the Institute for Sustainability, said her group, as well as Academic Affairs and Core Green Team, are doing baseline environmental assessments on residential halls and the campus at large.

At Geronimo’s, Kurland added, residential dining is now trayless.  Along with this, Kurland said other restaurants through the University Corporation such as the Arbor Grill are taking steps to reduce water use.

“Use of misters instead of building a closed structure reduce energy and water needs,” Kurland said.

CSUN is also considering rainwater harvesting and buying grey water, or used water, from DWP, Kurland added.

Peter Bellin, an environmental and occupational health professor and member of the institute, said campus is already implementing grey water.

“If you go by the Arbor Grill and you look at the plantings, they put in draught-towering plantings,” Bellin said.

In fact, the plants chosen for CSUN are now those that need less water to survive, Bellin added.

“If we use up all the water, eventually there is nothing left,” Bellin said.

In many parts of the world, Bellin said, people spend half of the day going to fetch water, because it is such a scarce resource.

“Many parts of the world have limited access to clean water supply,” Bellin added. “In many locations around the world we’re using fresh water at a rate greater than it is being replenished.”

Bellin said that this becomes an international or world issue, and that publications such as National Geographic have recently addressed this problem.

“It is really important for people to recognize that we live in a semi-arid region, and (they should) live accordingly,” Bellin added.

The Institute for Sustainability is a loose collection of faculty and staff on campus that promote sustainability. Some of their suggestions cover subjects such as water use as well as the implementation of a farmers market on campus, Bellin said.

One suggestion from Sullivan, and from PPM as a whole, is for people on campus and especially people in the dorms to try to be more frugal about water use.

“It does take an awful lot of energy to get water here, so you’re cutting back on energy,” Sullivan said.

If there are any leaks in faucets or toilets, Sullivan said people should report them to PPM.