City, University Prepare to Dramatically Reduce Water Usage

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday July 17, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

In the face of impending water restrictions and drought rates, both the city and UC Berkeley are bracing for water reductions of up to 30 percent. 

But don’t expect to see dry fountains or brown parks. The goal for each remains reduction of water consumption, not elimination. 

“I don’t think that anything will die; it’s just that some areas that can go stressed will go stressed,” said Sue Ferrera, the new city parks superintendent. “We won’t have perfectly equal coverage everywhere.” 

EBMUD will require that the city’s park system cut its water usage by 30 percent on each of its 300 meters. In the past month, park maintenance has started watering areas only every three days, adjusting sprinkler coverage to reduce waste, replacing leaking or high-flow sprinkler heads and simply letting some areas suffer. Ferrera said that a few areas of the parks and medians will “go brown,” but others will remain green. 

“It’s simply making sure the system works as well as it can and cutting back as much as possible,” Ferrera said. 

UC Berkeley, which has not yet received its reduction goal from EBMUD, must reduce its water consumption not only across its lawns and fountains, but also in labs, dormitories and construction sites. 

“There’s no one magic place where we can reduce and that will get us to our target,” said Christine Shaff, the communications manager for facilities services at the university. “It’ll be a lot of efforts in a lot of places.” 

A 2005 Sustainable Water Plan published on the Sustainability at UC Berkeley website (sustainability.berkeley.edu) re-ports that in 2003, the main campus used approximately 1.3 million gallons of water per day.  

Like the city, the university has cut back on irrigation, started watering only in the morning and set crews to locate and repair misdirected sprinkler heads.  

“We have cut back on irrigating,” Shaff said. “If people come over to campus, they may find lawns that are less green.” 

Additionally, the university will practice sheet mulching and experiment with low-waste irrigation systems. Decorative outdoor fountains will circulate water, and at least one will remain dry. Shaff said that although the university wishes to maintain its “look,” it is working closely with EBMUD to use water more efficiently. 

The university uses non-potable water from a well on campus to wash “hardscape” (sidewalks, paved lots) and construction sites. 

Indoors, all departments will look for ways to reduce water consumption, instating outreach programs for students and installing low-flow fixtures in laboratories and bathrooms. 

“It’s a hard balance to strike,” Shaff said. “But we’ll be working closely with EBMUD to meet our reduction goal.”