University of California Will Reduce Water Use During State Drought Emergency

(3BL Media/JustMeans) Water is a precious commodity in California which is experiencing its third straight year of drought. The drought is the worst one the state has faced since the state started keeping records around 100 years ago. The drought is such a problem that on January 17, Governor Jerry Brown announced a State of Emergency. Governor Brown called for all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent. The University of California system, a public system of universities and medical centers, is leading the way when it comes to reducing water use. The UC Office of the President (UCOP) announced last month its goal to reduce water use per capita across all UC campuses by 20 percent by the year 2020. 
Eight out of 10 UC campuses have already met the 2020 goal. An annual report on sustainable practices states that there may be room for “further reductions.” Every UC campus has already established a water action plan, and collects annual water usage data. The Santa Barbara campus completed its water action plan before the other campuses, and that plan won a Best Practice Award at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference 2013. The campus hired a Water Efficiency Manager, increased conservation of cooling tower water and took soil samples to determine appropriate irrigation rates. Santa Barbara’s Facilities Management  department is providing $100,000 in a matching grant to retrofit restrooms with more water efficient fixtures. When the project is finished it will reduce water use by 40 percent by 2028. Santa Barbara’s Water Action Plan can serve as a template for other UC campuses and even other universities outside of the UC system to reduce water usage. 
Drought in California might be here to stay for quite a while. Two scientists, B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam studied tree rings and found that the last time this type of severe drought occurred was in 1580. “This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years,” said Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary science and geography. Ingram, when asked if climate change is playing a role in the current drought, answered in the affirmative. The well known climatologist James Hansen agrees, and told Think Progress, “Increasingly intense droughts in California, all of the Southwest, and even into the Midwest have everything to do with human-made climate change.”
The UC system seems to understand the reality of climate change. The public university system has a UC Climate Solutions Steering Group to advise the Executive Vice President for Business Operations on how to implement climate change goals. The annual report on sustainable practices mentions that five campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Merced, San Diego, and San Francisco) reduced their greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 compared to 2011 levels. Berkeley reduced its GHG emissions by seven percent. All campuses have a climate action plan to identify how to reduce GHG emissions. In 2012, four campuses (Davis, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco) emitted less metric tons of GHGs than in 2000.
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Photo: Wikipedia user Satyriconi