Feature Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, January 2018

UCSF Makes Progress on Reducing Water Use

With the overall intent of achieving sustainable water systems and demonstrating leadership in the area of sustainable water systems, the University he University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) has set the following Sustainable Water Systems goal for all UC locations:

”…reduce growth-adjusted potable water consumption 20% by 2020 and 36% by 2025, when compared to a three-year average baseline of FY2005/06, FY2006/07, and FY2007/08.”

In regards to this goal, the UCSF campus has made great process, reaching a 47% reduction from its 2007 baseline, exceeding the UCOP 2025 water reduction goal. This is not a reduction in total consumption, but rather is a metric of total consumption divided by Weighted Campus User, which is a measure of people on campus year to year.

UCSF Facilities Reducing Water Use

Over the past year, UCSF Facilities has made great process on reducing water use. Three key accomplishments are highlighted below:

  • Honored with a Best Practices Award from the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC) for its demonstrated performance in water efficiency. By replacing two inefficient bulk sterilizers, UCSF is saving 10-12 M gallons of water per year and $275,000 annually in water utilities;
  • Provided financial incentives to the Department of Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology to replace seven sterilizers at Genentech Hall, Mission Bay campus; and
  • Began upgrading water meters in campus buildings, which allows Facilities to identify problems quicker, gather better data, and identify water saving opportunities.

This, along with other water reduction efforts, resulted in a decrease of 15 M gallons of water in FY17 on campus. UCSF Health removed 11 autoclaves located in the OR anterooms saving upwards of 11 M gallons per year.

Bulk Sterilizer Upgrade Project

A key accomplishment for FY17 was completing the Bulk Sterilizer Upgrade Project, which won a CHESC Best Practice Award. The project replaced two inefficient bulk sterilizers at The Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Research Building, a state-of-the-art research facility located in UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. The five-story building houses critical research on the biological mechanisms of cancer. Among the extensive range of equipment in the building are two bulk sterilizers, which researchers use to steam sterilize laboratory equipment on a daily basis.

The sterilizers were determined to be consuming excessive quantities of water, breaking down regularly, and adversely impacting research processes. The upgrade took place in a sensitive research area, which required extensive communication and coordination to minimize disruption during the installation process. The project, estimated to save annually 10-12 M gallons of water and $275,000 in water utilities, demonstrates the financial efficacy of strategic water-efficiency projects. In addition, the project was a significant step toward meeting UC system policy to eliminate once-through water cooling.

Eliahu Perszyk, Water Program Coordinator with UCSF, explained that the new equipment uses only one percent of the amount of water previously used, and the total building water use has been reduced by approximately 80 percent.

Financial Incentives Available for Upgrading to New, Water-Efficient Equipment at Labs

UCSF Facilities also completed a pilot project for the new Water Efficient Equipment Incentive Program. The program provides financial incentives for campus laboratories to purchase new water efficient equipment, primarily targeting sterilizers. Laboratories can receive $5,000 for a new sterilizer, once the new equipment meets that amount in water savings.

Facilities partnered with the Department of Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology to replace seven sterilizers at Genentech Hall, Mission Bay campus. The total incentive for the seven sterilizers will be $35,000. In addition, the sterilizer replacement went through the San Francisco Water Department Equipment Incentive Program, earning the department a rebate of $86,000. Water consumption was verified by installing water meters on the old sterilizers; weekly baseline meter readings were taken for two months. Water meters on the new sterilizers were read until the water savings payback was met. The estimated water savings for the new sterilizers is 2,452,692 gallons per year.

When the sterilizers in the labs she manages started breaking down often, Ana Alvarado-Lopez, UCSF Glasswash Manager for Genentech and Byers Hall, started researching the options for replacing the old sterilizers. “By placing meters on the machines, we could see how much water we were wasting,” explained Alvarado-Lopez. She ended up selecting Getinge because the company offered good prices and water savings. According to Alvarado-Lopez, by measuring the water use before and after upgrading the equipment, it was easy to see the big difference the more efficient equipment was making. The cost of the new equipment has been passed onto the labs, however, they are no longer complaining about delays due to waiting for repairs. Once the new machines are paid for (in five years), the cost charged to the labs will go down.

One unfortunate detail became clear while writing this story: unfortunately, labs do not directly benefit from the cost savings of the new equipment, which use much less water. Perhaps in the future there will be a mechanism to incentivize labs to upgrade more equipment by making their water utilities savings available.

Upgraded Water Meters

UCSF has also begun upgrading water meters in campus buildings, which allows Facilities to identify problems quicker, gather better data, and identify water saving opportunities. The meters are being converted from manually read mechanical meters to electronic meters connect to the building data management system. This system sends information to SkySpark, which is a new data management dashboard Facilities is using to analyze rebuilding data.

Removed Autoclaves

UCSF removed 11 autoclaves located in the OR anterooms, each saving upwards of 11 million gallons per year.  These autoclaves were originally installed during initial construction to sterilize surgical equipment just outside the surgery suite.  After some time, it was recognized that the Sterile Processing Department was sterilizing all equipment in their own department and very little, if any, was being done in Surgery.  In addition, the space was needed for other purposes and water savings could be realized, so it was planned for removal in FY16-17.