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SDSU Works To Boost Water Conservation Amid Severe Drought

San Diego State University
San Diego State University

As California’s severe drought drags on, schools and college campuses around San Diego are stepping up efforts to conserve water.

San Diego State University serves nearly 35,000 students on its 300-acre campus. It used 230 million gallons of water last year. A quarter of the water was used for energy and keeping the campus cool; 20 percent for housing, and 15 percent for irrigation.

"The main thing we’re doing is to identify where water’s being used, and then we can, in a strategic way, start whittling down each of the categories," said Tom Abram, campus energy manager at SDSU.

Drought-tolerant vegetation, artificial turf and high-tech irrigation systems are part of the university's drought response plan. Abram said they're also searching for additional sources of water.

The new Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union has a rainwater collection system, Abram said. "So we’re going to be collecting rainwater and reusing that for irrigation. We’re exploring opportunities to take our sewage and process that water to use for industrial purposes."

Abram said the university two years ago began collecting condensation from its campus cooling towers. So far, 400,000 gallons have been pooled and reused.

New mandatory water restrictions imposed by state and county water officials are measures the campus had already initiated, said Bill Lekas, SDSU energy manager.

"We were at the forefront," Lekas said. "So then when they asked us to do a 20 percent cut, we were already bare bones. So on the irrigation side it would mean letting stuff die. On the industrial, we’re kind of stuck on that ... we can’t make it any less without cutting back on operation."

Abram said they're not looking at this drought as a one-time event. "We’re making sure that conservation efforts, efficiency efforts are going to stay in place and make sure that we’re better positioned to prepare for these types of events in the future."

With classes back in session, Abram said they plan to renew efforts to engage students in brainstorming conservation ideas.

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