UCSF Sustainability Stories

Ana Toepel, Green Impact, May 2018

UCSF Takes Water Efficiency to the Next Level

One day the Bay Area is having record-breaking hot temperatures, and the next it’s a winter storm advisory. The short but intense spring rains might have made you think the drought had ended. Yet, we are ending the rainy season with this year’s total precipitation for the Southern Bay Area at just 51% of the historical average and the U.S. Drought Monitor showing conditions ranging from abnormal dryness to severe drought for much of California. UCSF’s Eli Perszyk, Facilities Services Water Program Coordinator, is hard at work behind the scenes overseeing UCSF’s water footprint and has a clear message for the UCSF community—water conservation is still needed.

According to Perszyk, UCSF is responding to current water conditions by doing even more than it already has to promote water efficiency on campus. In 2015 the University of California (UC) system developed a water efficiency policy that had a goal of reducing water consumption 36% per weighted campus user by 2025. As of FY 16-17, UCSF has surpassed that goal to achieve a 47% reduction in water use by implementing a variety of water saving measures, some of which are outlined in last year’s annual sustainability report and in one of January’s featured sustainability stories. Even with this achievement under its belt, UCSF continues to seek more opportunities to save water through education, infrastructure, and efficient practices.

Every Drop Counts Campaign Engages Campus Community

One of UCSF’s current actions is the development of an education and engagement campaign for the university community called Every Drop Counts. Perszyk explains, “One of the strategies included in the UC system’s water policy was to have an outreach campaign, and the Every Drop Counts campaign is the fulfillment of that.” He notes that the goals of the campaign are to communicate the connection between drought and climate change, the current state of water resources in California, and what UCSF is doing to mitigate water resource issues.

The campaign attempts to cover the main areas on campus where the community can be engaged with targeted education and information on posters. The posters will be hung in campus housing, the fitness center, and campus laboratories, making water efficiency measures more visible and aiming to get people involved in taking UCSF’s water saving efforts to the next level. The posters include metrics and data, a result of being designed with the more ‘technical’ audience of the UCSF community in mind.

The campaign includes updated water efficiency web pages on UCSF’s sustainability website, where the Every Drop Counts posters will be housed. The web pages provide resources to keep people informed on the current status of California’s water resources, what measures UCSF is pursuing, and how they can participate in water conservation and saving efforts.

Water Use Reduction Efforts on Campus Continue

The Every Drop Counts campaign posters highlight some of the efforts on campus to further reduce UCSF’s water use.


Laboratories have been a main focus of these efforts, since they are one of the biggest consumers of water on campus. Sterilizers are one of the most water-intensive pieces of equipment, so to address this Facilities Services is offering an incentive program that helps labs procure more water efficient versions and ensure water savings.

Facilities Services also has plans to perform maintenance and efficiency work on laboratory faucets using domestic and industrial water for washing and rinsing. Faucets will be cleaned up, maintenance will be performed on all components, and one gallon per minute laminar flow restrictors will be installed to greatly reduce the amount of water wasted when using the faucets.


Cutting down on irrigation during the drought saved 9.5 million gallons of water at the Mission Bay campus alone. UCSF uses an automatic control system that turns down irrigation whenever possible, avoiding the unnecessary water use that often occurs with irrigation systems. A new long term project is being planned to identify the turf not being used at Parnassus and replace it with water-efficient landscaping, which has potential for large water savings as well.

Fitness Center

The pool at Mission Bay’s fitness center was outfitted in 2016 with a new, state-of-the-art treatment system that circulates pool water through a UV filter to disinfect and clarify the water, so it doesn’t need to be drained frequently for cleaning. This system delivers huge results in terms of water conservation, savings 100,000 gallons of water for each time the pool is not drained.

Work Behind the Scenes Promotes Water Savings

In the background of this campaign are actions to support the water efficiency efforts being highlighted and increase their impact. Water metering is currently a focus for Facilities Services, because, as Perszyk points out, “Having the infrastructure in place for collecting data enables us to identify and prioritize future water efficiency projects. Metering is actually really important, and exciting!” He says part of what makes it exciting is that the water meters currently being installed in campus buildings have the newest technology and achieve the highest level of data analytics possible. “They are a big step up from what we had before.” The new electronic meters get high resolution data and are connected to the building management system, so it’s possible to tell how equipment is functioning in terms of water efficiency specifically.

Meters installed for the labs in Rock Hall on the Mission Bay campus demonstrate how the new meters can support water use reduction.  One of their first findings was that the majority of water use there is attributed to creating the purified reverse osmosis water used in research (water with minerals removed). Previous meters that only captured monthly data couldn’t achieve the level of detail needed to determine this. This information can now be used to look at whether something can be done to decrease water use for this purification process and identify opportunities for water savings.

UCSF’s Water Conservation Working Group, with its mission to incorporate best practices in water conservation and reuse at UCSF facilities, has been busy updating UCSF’s Water Action Plan. This plan solidifies the university’s commitment to sustainable water use and provides a road map for its efforts to decrease water consumption on campus. This document is available on the new water efficiency web pages on the sustainability website.

You Can Help Make Every Drop Count

Here are some ways you can contribute to the efforts to save water:

Support the campaign: Look out for the Every Drop Counts campaign posters around campus this summer—and stop to read them! Make “Every Drop Counts” your personal motto, too. Spread the word to others about the campaign and the importance of saving water. Check out the water efficiency pages on the sustainability website and stay informed.

Replace lab equipment: If there is equipment in your lab that consumes a lot of water, it could possibly be replaced with more efficient alternatives. The Water Efficient Equipment Incentive Program provides financial incentives for replacing equipment in campus laboratories, primarily targeting sterilizers. Check the UCSF Green Labs page for more information and contact Eli Perszyk to see about assessing your equipment.

Take shorter showers: When using the fitness center, or when at home, consider shortening your showers to 3 minutes. The average shower uses 5 gallons per minute! Just shortening your shower by a minute or two could save up to 150 gallons of water per month. Reduce your water consumption even more by turning the water off while soaping and shaving.