Georgia Tech has worked diligently over the last decade to reduce its per capita potable water consumption. Our strategy has been to reduce leaks, improve metering (find them, test them, and replace them in concert with the City), etc, install all low flow fixtures (faucets, showers, water closets) in housing, student affairs (recreation center etc), and throughout campus restrooms. Landscaping has moved toward smart irrigation systems, using non-potable water (reuse of stormwater and buidling condensate) when irrigiation occurs.
Potable water use has grown more slowly on campus than the rate of increase in the number of students and more slowly than the rate of increase in the square footage of building space on campus. It feels good to be able to say that because our campus has worked very hard to achieve this success. They deserve appreciation because their progress matters. It matters alot to us.
The City moved to smart, remotely readable water meters in the last couple of years. After years of working with the the City to repair water leaks and to identify the locations of all campus based meters and to determine if the known meters were working properly, we learned our water consumption reduction was 31% from 2001-2012. We had believed we had reduced water usage by 23%/sf and 30% between 2007 and 2011. Our record is good but less than our previous meters showed us. We are in the process of validating the new meters and our data. We continue to use the data to find and eliminate new leaks in the system and more opportunities for further reducing per capita water usage on campus.
Georgia Tech has installed water meters to measure makeup gallons to closed loop systems, irrigation systems, and cooling towers campus-wide. The information from dozens of these meters has helped diagnose leaks resulting in less wasted water and lower water bills.
The Institute has retrofit its plumbing fixtures with water conserving, low flow fixtures. Georgia Tech recognizes the importance and value of water. Leadership is water conservation is a role that Georgia Tech believes in and lives. All of our fixtures are low flow. Our design and renovation standards for water conserve more water than Georgia's Code requires and meet California's water conservation codes.
Georgia Tech's clothes washing machines are low flow. When selecting washing equipment on campus and other water dependent devices, we work to select the most energy and water efficient models that meet our needs. New dishwashing equipment uses only 70% of the water required by older machines. Where available and appropriate, we are selecting EnergyStar appliances. Green cleaning floor washing systems use 90% less water than models used a decade earlier.
Our dining halls server nearly 9000 meals a day. By eliminating the trays used to carry meals in 2007, over 3000 gallons of water are saved every day. It adds up. After the drought in Georgia ended, we didn't reinstate the trays in the dining hall. We moved to encourage students and visitors to think about whether they needed a tray for the meals served in the food court and retail establishments on campus. Trayless dining not only became a way of life, it continues to spread.
Cisterns have been added to campus.
Using only the condensate water from the two buildings with hoses from the roof to the collection containers, we avoided using 618,750 gallons of potable water in 2.5 months to irrigate our landscape and avoided the loss of value green assets during the 100-year-drought Atlanta experienced in 2007.
Landscaping has been installing irrigation systems that minimize the watering of landscape, in an effort to reduce our use of potable water for irrigation. These intelligent watering systems only water when no rain is forecast and only when the soil tests indicate irrigation is truly needed for that area. Gator bags allow water to slowly seep into the ground to water the roots of the plant, as opposed to running down hill away from the tree.
Use of water collected and stored as part of the Eco-Commons will further reduce our need to use potable water for irrigation. In the spring of 2006, GIT implemented 3 reforestation pilots. By July 2010, 13 reforestation projects had been implemented on campus. Campus has implemented 13 reforestation projects and grown the number of trees on campus to over 11,000. A tree can hold as much as 1000 gallons of water with it root system, thereby reducing stormwater runoff and reducing the need for irrigation.
Georgia Tech believes it has the largest cistern on a college campus in the US. It is the 1.4 million gallon cistern under Tech Green, adjacent to the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons Building. It has been designed to collect 30% of the rainwater runoff from the 12.8 acre site in the center of campus which includes Tech Green. The cistern was sized to provide 28 days of water storage, which will be used for toilet flushing in the new building and irrigation, when needed for its watershed.
Rain water and condensation from HVAC systems are captured in cisterns and used for irrigation. Georgia Tech’s efforts are underscored by its 30+ on-site cisterns designed to capture water and reduce the institute’s reliance on potable water to meet campus-wide irrigation needs. Currently more than 50 percent of the areas under irrigation use water “harvested” from these cisterns.The total of the cisterns is approximately 2,225,00 gallons. A Cistern Master Plan has evolved and a Stormwater Master Plan drives our future plans.