State-of-the-art water recycling system fuels campus facilities: In light of the growing water shortage, UCLA has harnessed the power of steam
The current water crisis facing the world has been growing in recent years due to changes in the environment and depleting resources, turning fresh water into a precious commodity.
By Mike Saelee
However, the crisis will continue to have little impact on UCLA because of the effective methods in recycling water along with campus conservation strategies for sanitation and water usage.
“UCLA has been responsive to the basis of the water conservation before there was even a crisis,” said David Johnson, director of energy services and utilities.
In Los Angeles, about 90 percent of the water is imported, but these water sources are suffering from the effects of global warming, ecological preservation efforts and below-normal rainfall in recent years.
“We hope people can cut back personal water use by 15 percent or 20 gallons a day,” said Jane Galbraith, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
UCLA has conserved and recycled water through the cogeneration plant, located in the Facilities Management Building near the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. This facility burns fuel and reuses the heat gained to make electricity, steam and chilled water.
The water created from the steam is then used around most of the campus in domestic hot-water heating, humidification and even cooking. It can also be recycled and reused in the facility, Johnson said. “The facility receives about 75 to 80 percent of water from steam back.”
The facility also produces chilled water which is used in the centralized air conditioning system. Like steam, chilled water can be recycled and reused.
“There can potentially be as much as 300 gallons of water per minute made in the cooling towers at the facility,” Johnson said. On average, the facility loses about one to two gallons of water per minute in the 7 million gallon system. Therefore the amount lost through the process of recycling water is minimal.
UCLA also uses low-flow urinals to conserve water. They are physically similar to normal urinals but have technology to fight contaminants using one gallon of water per flush, said Tim Petta, senior superintendent of the campus plumbing shop. “I will also be installing 275 ultra low-flow urinals. ... These urinals will use 0.13 gallons of water.”
Ultra low-flow toilets are also being tested to see differences in water conservation.
Campus water conservation also includes turning off fountains and air conditioning when they are not needed. As many may have noticed, the fountains usually functioning during the year are emptied out during vacation periods.
“The water fountains are part of the campus environment’s atmosphere, but in the summer, they will be turned off because we know not as many people will be here,” said Johnson. Air conditioning is also turned off during the winter break because people are not on campus.
Water conservation may also be applied to students and everyday living.
“If students see leaks, they should notify facility maintenance or, when students see water constantly being run down the drain, they can take responsibility and make sure the water is not being wasted,” Johnson said.
The amount of water from every small act of conservation eventually adds up, saving many gallons of water.
Shortening shower time saves about 700 gallons of water a month and running full loads of clothes in washing machines saves about 300 to 800 gallons a month, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Web site.
“There will always be someone who is wasteful with water, but we should try to do everything we can to reduce water consumption as much as possible,” Johnson said.
The importance of water conservation in California was brought to the public eye in June when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency due to a drought in nine central valley counties that rely heavily on water for farming. In July, he and Sen. Diane Feinstein proposed a $9.3 billion bond measure to fund water supply and conservation projects.
“The city of Los Angeles has not declared a drought because the Owens Valley is part of the Department of Water and Power’s own dedicated water source,” Galbraith said. “But we should still be mindful that water is a precious resource that needs to be conserved.”
Published: Monday, August 11, 2008