Despite ongoing drought, recycled water keeps grass green
THE SANTA CLARA
January 15, 2015
Although the city of Santa Clara witnessed a wet December, the county’s water resources are running dangerously low. Despite this, Santa Clara’s expanses of grass remain a deep emerald green.
Approximately 85 percent of campus lawns are irrigated with recycled water, according to Joe Sugg, former assistant vice president of University Operations. This accounts for 88.4 acres of the 104-acre Santa Clara campus.
The other 15 percent of campus lawns, including the Mission Garden and Bellomy Field, are watered with potable, or drinkable, water.
The recycled water that Santa Clara uses to irrigate its lawns is also, in fact, drinkable, according to Sugg. Though the water is treated in a tertiary water treatment system that removes coliform bacteria, it doesn’t meet the California Health Law standards for the level of dissolved solvents in drinking water.
The university took a leap in water sustainability in 2003 when it joined the South Bay Water Recycling Program, a municipal organization in San Jose that provides treated and recycled water to South Bay cities. The water comes from a 24-inch pipeline on Franklin Street that is owned by the city of Santa Clara.
According to Lindsey Kalkbrenner, director of the Center for Sustainability, since 2004, the university has saved over 487 million gallons of potable water by using recycled water for various purpose.
Overall, the university used over 129 million gallons of water in 2013. Of this total, more than 47 million gallons of recycled water were consumed during 2013, according to a Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System report.
STARS is a transparent, self-reporting framework for universities to measure sustainability performance. Kalkbrenner said the university does not have the numbers from 2014 because bills from December are still processing.
Pat Ferraro, who served on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors for 24 years, said that he thinks California will be pushed to conserve recycled water by next year because it may be the only available water we have left.
According to Ferraro, drinking recycled water is going to be the least of our problems in the upcoming years.
“The fact of the matter is, you know there’s about 350,000 acre feet of storage in the water basin and we are going to take 150,000 acre feet out this year,” said Ferraro. “If the aqueducts shut down because it doesn’t rain next year, we will take 200,000 acre feet next year and then there’s no water left. There’s no water in the aqueducts, there’s no water underground and then we become water migrants.”
Senior Mateo Rodriguez, an intern at the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said that the water-recycling program on campus is “good” but should be expanded.
In 2005, Santa Clara substituted existing urinals with Waterfree Urinals. One of these typically saves 40,000 gallons of water per year, according to the University Operations website.
Currently, the toilets in the Harrington Learning Commons, Locatelli Activity Center and the Schott Admissions and Enrollment Services building are supplied with recycled water.
“If we could get (toilets that use recycled water) in the dorms, that would save a lot of water on campus,” Rodriguez said.
Senior Ellen Yun, who is also interning at the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said that the school could save a “tremendous amount of water” if it replaced some of its lawns with native area plants. “Even recycled water should be conserved (during the drought),” said Yun.
According to the STARS report, “The university strives to reduce watering needs by using drought-tolerant plants where appropriate.”
Contact Mallory Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.