Water conservation is a fundamental component of sustainability at the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) and SMCCCD is committed to alleviate the economic and ecological risks of water resource availability in the Bay Area. In response to California’s historic drought, in January 2014 the Chancellor of SMCCCD declared a 25% reduction goal from the 2013 baseline. It is important to note SMCCCD’s early adoption and commitment to water conservation, as this was over a year prior to Governor Brown’s 2015 executive order to reduce water use 25% from the 2013 baseline. Despite the strong 2017 winter rain, the drought is not over and SMCCCD is committed to doing their part to conserve water on all three campuses.
Over the past decade, SMCCCD took early steps to reduce water use through: natural turf replacement on athletic fields, adjusting irrigation schedules, implementing weather-based irrigation controllers, new landscaping and planting of native and drought tolerant species, informational signage, installation of low flow indoor fixtures, and altering outdoor fountains. Parallel efforts to further water conservation encompassed writing the SMCCCD Water Efficiency Program (WEP) in order to identify and address information gaps, take action, and educate students, faculty, staff, and the greater San Mateo County Community. The WEP utilizes a six-step process to establish and support this framework.The WEP steps are designed to be a continuous process, as old strategies are being evaluated while new strategies are being implemented. Each step of the WEP provides direction and instruction while simultaneously evaluating progress in order to ensure program effectiveness. The WEP is also designed to serve as a framework for encouraging water conservation at other college campuses. An accompanying document was created, the Water Efficiency Program Template, and is designed to guide colleges in creating a Water Efficiency Program for their campus.As an institution of higher education, SMCCCD is committed to integrate sustainability into curriculum through Facilities and sustainability related projects. In the Fall 2016, two CSM biology classes and the CAN Environmental Club utilized the campus as a living lab and conducted campus wide water audits of indoor fixtures. Working with faculty, a lecture was given to students about limited global water resources, shared state water resources and responsibilities, the local Hetch Hetchy Water System, ongoing drought in California, state and water utility conservation efforts, utility conservation resources, SMCCCD’s water conservation efforts, and how to perform a water audit. Students were given step by step instructions and performed the water audit in pairs and upon completion were given a reflection and at home assignment. Students were able to gain hands on experience while also take these lessons home and share them with their community. Below is some feedback received form the students:
“This lab made me actually value the water I have access to, because I often found myself taking it for granted. It made me realize how little water there is in the world that we can actually use, especially after listening to the lecture. In the future I will make goals regarding water usage, like cutting down time in the shower.”
“I think this lab was a great ‘mind opener.’ We got to find out how much water we use every time we flush a toilet or wash our hands. We can also see the difference that the dual versus manual flush in water usage. Thank You!”
“The lab makes me understand that I am part of the biological system. Instead of doing other biology labs that may seem far away from our life, this lab let me contribute to the community that I live in. By understanding the importance of water waste, I will closely pay attention to the water amount that I use every day.”
For information on how to conduct a water audit campus as a living lab activity on your campus, please reach out to Hilary Ego for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org