Stanford water conservation measures expanded

Sept. 12, 2015, 12:00 p.m.

As the California drought continues to affect millions across the state, Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 issued a letter last month urging Stanford faculty, staff and students to do even more this summer to conserve water.

His letter came in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s recent water conservation regulations, which require institutional water consumers such as Stanford to reduce the use of potable, or drinkable, water. The University must either lower water usage by 25 percent compared with the same months in 2013 or limit irrigation of ornamental landscapes and lawns to two days per week.

Under the provost’s request in his letter, Stanford will reduce its non-potable water irrigation by at least 25 percent throughout campus.

The drought has drastically reduced Stanford’s surface water supplies — the source of much of its non-potable water, or water that is not of drinkable quality. The 25-percent reduction requested by the provost is designed to ensure that the University can continue to conserve water rather than use groundwater as a hedge against the continuing drought.

According to Stanford grounds manager Ted Tucholski, the Grounds Services Group has already achieved the 25-percent reduction goal set by the provost and is seeking to exceed it. The Grounds Services Group implemented a new twice-weekly watering schedule across campus beginning in January and uses a landscape water management system that receives weather data daily and adjusts the irrigation schedule accordingly. The system will, for example, make sure less water is used if it rains.

At the Stanford Golf Course, 27.5 of the 110 acres are no longer being irrigated, according to the course’s general manager Shannon Donlon. More than 350 sprinklers that water the periphery — or “rough” — of each hole have been turned off. The golf course, which is exploring installation of a more efficient irrigation system, had already achieved a water consumption reduction of 10 percent in 2014.

As for Stanford Athletics, coaches have been asked to move practices and exercises around different parts of the fields to diminish wear on a particular area. This will also allow the fields to be watered with hoses rather than by irrigation equipment.

Athletics has also stopped watering other areas, including the hillsides around the softball field and the lawns in front of Maples Pavilion. The department is also experimenting on the Elliott Practice Field with technology that allows grass to draw and retain more moisture from the air, reducing the amount of irrigation needed.

According to Roger Whitney, chief housing officer of Residential & Dining Enterprises, irrigation equipment is also being updated across Stanford’s 57 acres of student housing. The project, which involves more than 20,000 pieces of equipment, will save an estimated 33 million gallons of water per year — a 46-percent reduction.

As specified in Etchemendy’s letter, the use of potable water for irrigating campus lawns will also be restricted. The regulations are very similar to those instituted last year, with irrigation using potable water restricted to twice a week.

Other state regulations will help conserve water, including the prohibition of using hoses to wash cars unless fitted with shut-off nozzles and of using potable water to wash driveways and sidewalks. Eating establishments are also no longer allowed to serve drinking water unless a customer requests it.

“I ask for your help in complying with [these] measures,” Etchemendy said. “Please also pursue any other practical forms of water conservation available to you, including reporting and quickly fixing leaks and further reducing irrigation and indoor use as much as possible.”


Contact Andrew Choi at andrewyoonchoi ‘at’

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