Colorado State Reduces Water Use, Increases Conservation Measures, Utilizes 95 Percent Raw Water for Irrigation

As part of an ongoing multi-decade effort to increase efficient water use on campus, Colorado State University uses approximately 95 percent untreated water for irrigation, utilizes an advanced computerized sprinkling system to eliminate unnecessary watering and is taking proactive measures to reduce water use in dorms and other facilities. In response to current statewide drought conditions, campus watering has also been reduced to about 50 percent of normal.

"We have been focusing on water conservation at Colorado State for many years, and although the campus has experienced tremendous growth throughout the last decade, we use less water now than we did in the late 1980s," said Ron Baker, director of facilities management. "To further support the state’s water conservation efforts, we have reduced irrigation watering to the absolute minimum consistent with maintaining the function and health of our turf."

For 15 years the university’s facilities management department has been converting its irrigation system from city treated water to a raw water system, reducing demand of the city’s water reserves and eliminating chemical and energy costs related to water and sewage treatment. The raw water irrigation system saves the campus approximately $200,000 per year when compared to using treated water.

Raw water for irrigation comes from College Lake on Colorado State’s Foothills Campus through a pipeline directly to the main campus. The system has been continually expanded over the last 15 years to its current capability of watering 220 acres of grass and landscape. Last year the pipeline was extended to the old Fort Collins High School, now part of Colorado State’s central campus, the university’s research center west of town and the campus’s arboretum.

Colorado State utilizes a computerized radio-controlled sprinkling system to manage the university’s 1200 watering stations and 25,000 sprinkler heads. Using water meters the staff closely monitors the evaporation rate, the amount of water being applied to lawns and how much precipitation is in the ground, and factors in other measurements such as temperature, wind and humidity. Appropriate adjustments can be immediately made to individual areas or the entire campus.

Irrigation personnel expect at least a 25 percent reduction in water use on campus throughout the summer. Water reduction could be greater if drought conditions persist. The majority of campus watering is done at night to reduce evaporation and increase absorption.

Colorado State is also taking proactive steps to reduce its water use in buildings, particularly in the university’s dormitories and apartments. Facilities management recently completed a renovation of the campus’s University Village apartment complex, upgrading all 200 units with low flow faucets, water reducing shower heads and low flow toilets.

Also in recent years, the university’s Corbett and Parmelee dormitory dining hall dishwashing facilities were upgraded and consolidated, saving the campus 3 million gallons of water per year. All bathrooms in Westfall and Durward Hall, the university’s two tower dormitories, have been upgraded with water-conserving faucets and showers, saving another 3 million gallons of water annually. All other dormitory shower facilities have also been retrofitted with low-flow shower heads.

Campus authorities are additionally placing water meters on individual buildings across campus in order to pinpoint problems and determine where to focus further conservation efforts.