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UCSB student project becomes water saving model

Six graduate students are changing the way water is used at UC Santa Barbara and their project is making waves across the state.

It started as a class project at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management to create a plan to conserve water on campus.

“Taking into account increases in campus population growth and infrastructure growth and planning water accordingly,” said Katie Cole, one of the members of the student group.

Everyone at the university uses water in some way, from toilets to the sinks. On a given day there can be up to 26,000 students and family on campus. That means a lot of water going down the drain.

The students started measuring big water-wasting culprits, starting with toilets. They removed parts of the pipes and added a hose that poured into a large, orange bucket.

“Once we have this whole thing connected, we would release one flush and measure the volume. And so we did this, we had a total sample for 31 toilets on campus,” explained Dane Johnson.

It ranged from a little more than one gallon to nine gallons after every use. A simple fix is to change the valves.

To save water in the sinks, the students decided to add water aerators that cost around $2.

“So, they’re looking at a really great return on the investment because of all the water cost they’re going to save for not having to pay for that water that’s basically being wasted,” said Rebecca Dorsey.

The university adopted the graduate students’ plan and now the nine other UC schools are looking at is as a model.

“A lot of our work in regards to restroom fixtures, irrigation, industrial applications can all be used by other universities,” said Matthew O’Carroll.

By next year all the campuses must have a conservation plan and UCSB hopes the trend will spread across the country.

“It kind of puts us in a leadership role nationwide for what to do with water reductions,” said Mo Lovegreen, the director of campus sustainablility.

Click here for the UCSB Water Action Plan.

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