UCSF Sustainability Stories


Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, February 2014


Conserve Water and Report Water Leaks:  UC Announces New Goal to Reduce Water Use 20%

drip waterCalifornia’s driest year on record makes conserving water even more important this year.  University of California President Janet Napolitano recently announced a goal of reducing per capita water use by 20 percent throughout the UC system by the year 2020.  Napolitano said the university must step up and contribute to the preservation of the state’s most precious resource.

“The University of California has long been a leader in conservation efforts,” she said. “This new 2020 goal complements the university’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative and its broader award-winning sustainability efforts. UC is prepared to play a leadership role in response to California’s current water crisis by demonstrating water sustainability solutions to the rest of the state.”

Napolitano said, “These efforts are critical to addressing the formidable water, energy and climate challenges facing California, the nation and the world.”

Water conservation is a key component of UCSF’s sustainability priorities.  Since 2007, UCSF’s water-saving measures have resulted in an annual savings of 29 million gallons of water on campus.

But there are still opportunities for you to do your part.  See below for details on these four water-saving tips:

*  Install faucet aerators
*  Join the Race to Certification and get your office certified
*  Report water leaks (and ask for free stickers)
*  Participate in the Pipette Wash Rack Program (offer expires 3/30/14)

Install Faucet Aerators

DripsAn easy and low-cost way to conserve water is to install faucet aerators for every sink in your work area. Most faucets have a water flow ranging from 4 gallons per minute (gpm) to 6 gpm. By installing a high efficiency aerator, this can be reduced to either 1 gpm or 1.5 gpm, saving thousands of gallons of water per year.  Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to have aerators installed for free and earn 4 points in the Race to Certification.

Join the Race to Certification and Get Your Office Certified

step1All offices, labs and units at UCSF can now be LivingGreen Certified. Join the Race to Certification, a friendly competition that rewards more sustainable practices at your office, lab or clinic/unit, and your office will get a free energy, waste and water audit, with specific suggestions for how to reduce your water and energy use. Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to get started.

Report Water Leaks

LeaksYou can also do your part to LiveGreen by reporting water leaks to facilities management by calling 415-353-1120 at the medical center and 415-476-2021 on campus.  They will come at no charge to repair the leak! 

Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to get some free stickers to post in appropriate locations.

Participate in the Pipette Wash Rack Program

rackIf your lab is using glass pipettes, Steris racks will allow you to wash your pipettes in a glass washer.  Switching over to this method from the Nalgene system will save water and money.

If Genentech Hall installed 25 new Steris racks, it is estimated that over 11 million gallons of water per year would be saved, resulting in cost savings of over $51,000 per year.  With UCSF’s initial investment of $1,600 per rack, this is a great deal for everyone involved.

Please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to find out how you can get your FREE pipette wash rack and save millions of gallons of water! Hurry!  This offer expires March 30, 2014! 

Other Water Saving Tips

Other ways you can do your part include:

*  Save water while washing hands - get clean, just don’t waste water.
*  Take shorter showers.
*  Use dishwashers and glasswashers -  hand washing wastes water!
*  No power washing until further notice or unless it’s classified a health/safety issue.
*  Report excessive water use or washing of cars immediately to facilities management.

UCSF’s Water Conservation Program

For FY 2012-13, UCSF campus used about 287 million gallons of water, which is a baseline consumption of 14,491 gallons per person per year, a 4.4% decrease from the baseline of 15,161 gallons per person per year, based on average use and campus population for a 3 year period (FY 2007-08 through 2009-10).

Actions UCSF has taken to reduce water use over the past few years include:

1.  Finalized the Phase 1 water audit for Parnassus campus and implemented water fixture changes (low flow toilets, faucet aerators etc).  Anticipated savings for this program are 2.3 million gallons per year.

2.  Implemented a Phase 2 water audit for Mission Bay and other UCSF sites and have started implementing similar fixture change outs to those we implemented at Parnassus.

3.  Installed new water meters at select buildings that automatically publish weekly water consumption reports for each building indicating night time as well as day time usage.  Dramatic increases in night time use generally indicates a leak.  Facilities Services promptly investigates possible leaks and has saved the University over 7 million gallons per year through this program.

4,  The pilot irrigation system is working well at Parnassus. This system also indicates to Facilities Services when there are leaks in the irrigation system so that they can be repaired promptly and water is not wasted.

5.  To reduce irrigation further, we have begun propagating and planting low water use plants at Parnassus. The Sutro Nursery is managed and staffed by volunteers under the supervision of the Sutro Stewards and Facilities Services. All the specimen in the nursery have been grown from seeds or cuttings taken from plants that are naturally occurring in the Mt. Sutro Open Space Reserve. The intention is replant back into the forest as well as to convert campus planting beds into more sustainable landscapes by installing these native plants. Once established most native plants do not need any water beside the annual rainfall. They are also low maintenance and more resistant to pests, therefore require little to no fertilizers or pesticides and support wildlife such as birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. We have converted two landscapes recently on Parnassus, the first at Millberry Union and the second at the prior 735 Parnassus site.

UCSF’s Plan to Reach 20 Percent Reduction Target

To reach the 20 percent reduction target, there are four areas that UCSF is concentrating on:

1.  Assessment of all water using and disposing equipment, fixtures and devices:  Repair identified leakages and repair or replace broken equipment, fixture, devices.

2.  Staff and occupant education:  Educate users and encourage good water conservation practices.  Encourage Facilities Services staff to continuously improve water efficiency practices and promote staff conservation initiatives e.g. cold room retrofits (developed by in house staff).  This program changes out “once-through” cooling where components of the refrigeration system are cooled via a constant stream of water which is subsequently dumped down the drain to a system that uses far less water.

3.  Standardization and introduction of new technology:  Work with Capital Programs and Facilities Services building engineers and plumbers to standardize fixture, equipment and device selection for new construction/renovation projects.

4.  Collaboration with San Francisco Public Utilities Commission:  Take advantage of the City’s water conservation program and financial incentives. 

By:  Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, sustainability communications that inspire action.