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Faculty use more water than student and county averages

Elizabeth Titus

more water than student and county averages Elizabeth Titus September 15th, 2009 by Elizabeth Titus Pop

September 15th, 2009 by Elizabeth Titus

Pop quiz: Who uses more potable water, per person, at home — Stanford students in dorms, faculty and staff living on campus, or the average Santa Clara County resident?

New University data say it is faculty, who use an estimated 25 percent more domestic water per capita than the average local resident, and more than four times as much as the average student.

The data are tracked largely by staff in the University’s Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, who have spent at least $2 million since 2001 encouraging faculty and students to conserve water and use high-efficiency appliances at home.

The department’s 2008 numbers, their most recent, illustrate the contrast: Of the 2.3 million gallons of potable water Stanford used every day last year, about 22 percent was used by an estimated 2,441 faculty and staff members and their families living on campus -about 215 gallons per person per day. An estimated 11,500 undergraduate and graduate students accounted for about 25 percent of the water used, or some 50 gallons per day per student.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the average Santa Clara County resident used about 172 gallons, both indoor and outdoor, per day last year.

Margaret Laporte, the sustainability department’s associate director of utilities for water resources, is quick to note that the faculty figure represents both indoor and outdoor use, including water that goes to gardens and swimming pools, for example. The student figure mostly represents indoor use. Another “quite substantial” amount of lake water, which is not potable, goes to irrigate 150 acres around Escondido Village as well as outdoor areas around Toyon, Branner and Mirrielees, she said.

Yet despite millions poured into campus conservation efforts, an ongoing statewide drought and pressure from the agency that sells water to Stanford, resource and housing officials here cannot say for sure why faculty still use more domestic water than their local counterparts.

“I don’t have enough insights into all the faculty and staff ins and outs,” Laporte said. “I do know in our lots, well, the gardens are beautiful… people take pride in their landscapes and keep them very lush.”

“Some [faculty homes] have been here for 40 years,” Laporte continued. “None of us were thinking about water efficiency.”

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Stanford Daily Archive » Blog Archive » Faculty use more water than student and county averages

Pressure to Conserve

These days, however, the University is under water pressure.

It began with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which sells drinking water to Stanford, Laporte said. Years ago, Stanford contracted with SFPUC to receive about three million gallons per day, anticipating the school would eventually need that much.

In 2000, the county-issued General Use Permit, which governs how Stanford may develop its land,

stipulated that the University not exceed the original three million-gallon allocation. SFPUC has chimed in, too, saying that none of its purchasing agencies, including Stanford, could have more water until at least

2018.

In response, Laporte said, the University developed a water conservation “master plan” in 2000 in hopes of “[reducing] our water use as much as possible so that we can stretch our water supply,” she said.

Shortly afterward, conservation money was budgeted – some $5 million total, of which the water utilities staff has spent about $2 million to date, Laporte said. Another $500,000 has gone to water conservation projects in Student Housing, according to Executive Director Rodger Whitney.

Today, much of that faculty money pays for free “water-wise” house calls for faculty and staff living on campus, as well as recycling old toilets, giving away high-efficiency showerheads and aerators, and helping homeowners replace their lawn with less water-intensive landscaping.

Stanford’s efforts come in the wake of a state-wide water crisis, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger officially declaring a drought in June 2008 after more than two years of below-average rainfall. Nearby East Bay Municipal Utility District had also imposed mandatory water rationing the month before the declaration.

The Community Reacts

Officials’ opinions vary as to how effective Stanford’s water conservation efforts have been among faculty and staff.

“What I can say anecdotally, people very much welcome this, they are very serious about saving water,” said Lowell Price, executive director of Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders, which represents faculty and staff living on campus.

According to Laporte, 73 old toilets have been replaced with high-efficiency appliances in the faculty neighborhoods since October last year, as well as 25 washing machines.

Twenty-nine low-flow showerheads, operating at two gallons per minute, have been given away, and 14 homeowners have planned for a total of 34,430 square feet of lawn replacement, she said.

About 875 living units – some single-family, some condos or single rooms – make up the faculty and staff housing, according to Price.

Nancy Fischbein and her husband, Michael Kaplan, both medical school professors, are among those who replaced their front- and backyard turf, swapping it last winter with drought-resistant plants native to California. But their motivation, Fischbein said, wasn’t money.

4/23/12

Stanford Daily Archive » Blog Archive » Faculty use more water than student and county averages

“We thought it was sort of interesting,” Fischbein said. “We have solar panels on the house. We wanted to do the right thing… it wasn’t a money-saving thing.”

She added that the project didn’t come without snags: Her yard’s new plants require intensive watering to get established, she said.

“In fact, it cost us a lot of money to get the whole thing put in,” she said. “It’s still getting established… we have lots of dead plants.”

“We do eventually hope it will become independent as it is supposed to, but, you know, we like it,” Fischbein continued. “Our kids don’t like it because they wanted lawn… but we live on campus. There are places to go with lawns and fields and various things.”

Regarding University-sponsored rebates, she said, “I don’t know that we’re aware of any or eligible for any.”

Other community groups, like Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS), have been active in conservation efforts targeting students, but seldom dive into their professors’ at-home water habits.

“Most of our efforts have been Student Housing-based, and Student Housing has been very supportive,” said Noel Crisostomo ’10, an SSS coordinator for student groups, faculty and alumni outreach. “Our group hasn’t really delved into the faculty side yet.”

In the Pipeline

The University’s water conservation efforts are, by all accounts, certain to continue. Freshmen arriving on campus this week will be greeted almost exclusively by low-flow showerheads, while Laporte said conservation funding for faculty housing is safe despite budget downturns.

“I think the University recognizes that this is really important, so I have not been requested to reduce those funds,” she said.

But as to why faculty and staff still use more domestic water per person than the average Santa Clara County resident, Laporte and Price could only speculate.

The two again cited a gardening tradition in the faculty neighborhoods as a possible reason, along with large lot sizes.

Still, Stanford has managed to reduce its daily water use by 400,000 gallons since 2001, Laporte said, and more water-saving measures are on tap.

And as for faculty homeowners, it seems the water conservation ethos may be slowly trickling down.

“Yes, I think it’s a good thing to do,” Fischbein said. She added: “It does take some getting used to.”

Eric Messinger contributed to this report.

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Stanford Daily Archive » Blog Archive » Faculty use more water than student and county averages

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One Response to “Faculty use more water than student and county averages”

1. Thanks for the great article! Conserving water also helps protect the Tuolumne River. To learn more, people can visit http://www.tuolumne.org.

To learn more, people can visit http://www.tuolumne.org . Peter Drekmeier on 09.16.09 () Breaking news from

Peter Drekmeier on 09.16.09 ()

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