New water reduction requirements as drought persists

Stanford is making progress in reducing water consumption, and more restrictions have been initiated as the campus continues to address the effects of the California drought.

Last week, campus leaseholders in faculty and staff residences, as well as other campus units using potable water for irrigation, were advised of new state regulations on the use of potable water. All Faculty Staff Housing residences have been asked to water lawns or turf no more than two days a week, beginning last Friday, July 25.

Since the campus began a voluntary water conservation program earlier this year, Stanford has reduced its overall domestic (potable) water use by about 11 percent compared with 2013 levels, with Faculty Staff Housing leading the pace with a 13 percent year-to-date reduction. But more efforts are needed, Provost John Etchemendy wrote in a letter to faculty and staff living on campus.

The new reductions in water use come on top of the 20 percent reduction in domestic water use that Stanford has already achieved since 2000, and the expectation of a further 15 percent reduction when the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project is completed in 2015.

"We are making good progress in reducing water consumption, but we need to continue our efforts as the drought continues, and we need to make sure that campus residents comply fully with the newest state regulations," said Joseph Stagner, executive director of sustainability and energy management for Stanford.

In mid-July, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency regulations intended to reduce outdoor urban water use across the state of California. The regulations, punishable by fines of up to $500 per day for individuals, prohibit Californians from using potable water to:

  • Wash down driveways and sidewalks;
  • Water outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes excess runoff;
  • Wash a car with a hose, unless it is fitted with a shut-off nozzle;
  • Fill a fountain or decorative feature, unless the water is recirculated;
  • Irrigate landscape more than two days per week.

Effective Aug. 1, the new campus requirements will allow watering of lawns only on Tuesday and Saturday nights for even-numbered addresses, and on Wednesday and Sunday nights for odd-numbered addresses, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. For information about the new regulations, see the water use reduction FAQs.

The state regulations apply only to potable, or domestic, water, which at Stanford is supplied by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, largely from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the Sierra Nevada. By contrast, most of Stanford's water used for outdoor irrigation on the central campus is currently supplied by local surface water, largely from Felt Lake in the Stanford foothills, and wells, and is exempt from the state regulations.

Nevertheless, Stanford has drained fountains and reduced irrigation to further conserve water, and additional reductions in irrigation will be occurring in many parts of the campus. In addition, the campus is taking a range of other steps to conserve water including addressing leaks, calibrating water fixtures, optimizing irrigation systems, retrofitting high-use fixtures and installing smart, weather-based irrigation controllers.

Stanford also has launched education efforts about water conservation, encouraging members of the campus community to take shorter showers, run full laundry loads, report leaks, irrigate wisely and take other steps to reduce their personal water consumption. Leaks can be reported to the Land, Buildings & Real Estate (LBRE) facilities customer service center at (650) 723-2281.