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Stanford recovers penalties for excess water use

STANFORD -- Stanford, which accrued more than $300,000 in fines for excess water use last fall, has reversed the pattern and saved more than enough water to erase the penalties.

David Kaye of Operations and Maintenance said that by mid- May, Stanford's cumulative water savings amounted to 122,754 units, or 91.8 million gallons.

The university had exceeded its allotment by 96,754 billing units (each unit equals 748 gallons) during August, September, October and November 1990. The San Francisco Water Department imposed fines of $302,630 for that period.

"The university has not exceeded its water allotment since December," Kaye said. "Our ongoing efforts have had two very positive results -- we have recovered our penalties and will return these funds to the respective customer budgets."

Even more impressive, Kaye said, was that the Stanford community, with a daytime population of about 30,000, had reduced its overall thirst to the point where a proposed 45 percent mandatory rationing could probably have been met.

Because of heavy March rains, San Francisco withdrew plans to impose the 45 percent rationing and is continuing with average 25 percent cutbacks to all customers.

Stanford, like many Bay Area cities, buys water from San Francisco, which owns the Hetch Hetchy reservoir system. After the penalties for excess usage were imposed, the university put more of the campus on well water, which is safe and potable but also is "hard" and tastes less appealing to many people.

Now that the corner has evidently been turned, Kaye said, the wells will be switched off at the end of May.

"This means the entire campus will be served by the Hetch Hetchy system and the hard water problems will go away," Kaye said. "But this doesn't mean we can revert back to old habits. We must remain aware of the fact that we are still in a drought and exceeding our allotment is costly."

Kaye said a major goal has been to promote conservation to the point where Stanford could weather subsequent drought years without exceeding rationing limits. Steps taken have included engineering retrofits of single-pass cooling systems, using lake water for irrigation and only irrigating certain sensitive areas, close monitoring of daily water use (including in campus faculty residences, which now all have meters) and a public awareness and education program.

"It is obvious now that the Stanford community rallied to meet the challenge," Kaye said.



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