An Interview with CSUB’s Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management on Water Conservation

On April 1, Gov. Brown issued Executive Order B-29-15 mandating a statewide 25% reduction in the use of potable water through February 2016. This reduction is to be measured against a 2013 baseline.

At California State University, Bakersfield, we have already enacted numerous measures to reduce our water use. CSUB’s Public Affairs and Communications Office recently sat down with Patrick Jacobs, Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management, to discuss the water crisis and CSUB’s ongoing efforts to meet the Governor’s mandate.

What is the status of water use at CSU Bakersfield?

Through the first three months of 2015, CSUB has already cut water use by 25.5%, meaning we are already in compliance with the Governor’s executive order issued April 1. Through the first quarter of the calendar year, we have cut water use by 25.5% when compared against the first quarter of 2013, which is the baseline year for comparison.

What about reports that CSUB is the largest consumer of water in the city?

csub drought friendly
CSUB’s new Student Housing Complex features drought-friendly landscaping. Photo by Lisa Kerr/PAC.

That is not true. Of course, CSUB is a large consumer of water. That should be understood. We comprise almost 400 acres, and we have almost 10,000 people coming through campus on any given weekday. We have to use a lot of water. However, the city itself has more property and more facilities. It uses more water than we do. Again, that should be understood. What is more important is what we have been doing to conserve water. We are on the leading edge of water conservation in the city of Bakersfield, and that seems to have been overlooked in some of the early conversations.

How has the University met the Governor’s mandate so quickly?

The Governor declared a State of Emergency related to the drought in January 2014, and issued subsequent executive orders that same year. As a result, CSUB, and the CSU system as a whole, has been working on water conservation for quite some time. When the most recent executive order was issued, and the subsequent city ordinance in response to it, we had already been aggressively cutting back on water use for more than a calendar year. That is why we have already managed to meet the 25% reduction mandate, and we expect the cut water consumption by even more as the spring and summer progress.

What are some of the measures the University has taken?

Irrigation comprises the largest portion of our water use, so that is where are biggest reductions have been; however, we have a long list of measures we have undertaken:

  • Installation of a computerized central irrigation control system (Maxicom) with smart sprinklers that cut water use at least 30 percent by automatically adjusting water usage based on weather conditions, soil moisture or broken pipes. The system also allows us to manage the irrigation during events to make sure the sprinklers are turned off.

    artificial turf installation
    Artificial turf installation near parking lot I. Photo by Lisa Kerr/PAC.
  • Landscape areas watered with a standalone irrigation system are being converted so that they can be managed by the centralized system and can be programmed remotely.
  • Stopped filling decorative fountains and stopped filling most ponds on campus. At Alumni Park, we have stopped the flow of the creek and will only be maintaining water in the koi pond.
  • Installation of artificial turf in areas near walkways along Roadrunner Drive.
  • Installation of sustainable low water use landscaping in new construction projects including Student Housing East and the Visual Arts Building as well as a commitment to do so on future projects.
  • Removal of approximately 63,000 square feet of turf grass from small areas where it was not being used for recreation and replacing with only inert ground covers, such as mulch or gravel, or drought-tolerant native or non-thirsty plants. This project is ongoing and additional areas will be converted as time permits.
  • Installation of waterless urinals, low-flow toilets and low-flow lavatory faucets in restrooms across campus.
  • We are currently designing a project that will convert approximately 2.5 acres of turf grass to low-water-use planting on drip irrigation. This project is being funded by the state and should be complete later this summer.

What can students do?

Students can report flooded areas if they see them. We will be taking reports of overwatering, broken sprinklers and other areas of concern on our Facilities Management Facebook page.

Also, to report these issues by phone, students can call Facilities Management directly at (661) 654-2211. However, keep in mind that office lines are manned during weekdays only. If you need to report a broken water line after hours, call University Police at (661) 654-2111.

And University faculty and staff who see broken sprinklers can submit a work order.

What about the city ordinance limiting the schedule for irrigation?

We did not have any communication with the city until more than a week after that ordinance was passed. As a result of the ordinance, we are not irrigating on Mondays, which is a non-watering day for the entire city.

While we have an odd address, there is no way for us to irrigate almost 400 acres in three days. The City’s Water Resources Department acknowledged that, and we are working with them to limit the instances of irrigation per sprinkler in an effort to comply with the watering schedule included in the ordinance.

Can you explain that a little more? Why can’t CSUB just schedule the irrigation at set times?

Because that would likely result in us using more water. The intent here is to reduce water consumption. Our smart irrigation system allows for more efficient watering based on environmental and soil conditions. Moving to an irrigation schedule based simply on time, day and duration would be counter-productive. The Water Resources Department recognizes that and they want us to use our smart irrigation system to best comply with the overall intent – cutting water use by 25% or more.

What else should students and the general public know about water conservation at CSUB?

We just want people to know how seriously we take this. We have been working on this for more than a year already, and we are one of the leaders in water conservation in the city. We are monitoring our water consumption and will be making adjustments to assure that we continue to meet the Governor’s mandate. We fully expect to cut even more water use through the spring and summer. With almost 400 acres of land and close to 10,000 people on campus each day, we have to use water, but are doing all that we can to be good citizens with regard to water stewardship.

6 thoughts on “An Interview with CSUB’s Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management on Water Conservation

  1. Thanks for the question, Judith.

    I don’t think it is recycled water, but we have sent out in an inquiry for more information about it.

    In general, however, I would say that the University cannot stop using water. That is not a realistic expectation.

    In my mind, the key point is that we have cut our water use by 25.5% already, meaning we are already complying with the Governor’s mandate, and that we will cut water use even more through the spring and summer.

    We will post back here as soon as we get some information about your inquiry.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. Of course we use water on campus. I drink it and I am sure others do too. Using a broom on tennis courts might be more water-wise than using drinking water on the courts.

  2. Update, we do not have a system for recycling water. I awaiting additional information about the specific instance involving the tennis courts.

  3. Another update, there will be no further pressure washing of the tennis courts during the current water conservation efforts.

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