Drought spurs rigorous conservation efforts

The water level of Big Chico Creek as it runs through the Chico State campus on Feb. 17. Campus departments have been adjusting equipment and practices to conserve more water in California’s drought conditions. Photo credit: Catalina Friz

Chico State has responded to California’s ever-worsening drought by finding innovative ways to cut back on its water use on campus and at the University Farm.

Plumbing is on of the areas where water can be conserved, such as by replacing earlier faucet aerators with new ones that use only half the amount of water as before, said Bob Francis, lead plumber for Facilities Management and Services.

New toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush compared to the older ones which used 4.5 gallons per flush. Newer urinals being installed are either waterless or only use one pint of water whereas previously they used a gallon of water or more.

Urinals in the Aymer J. Hamilton Building and Laxson Auditorium that flushed every three to four minutes, 24 hours a day, were replaced with ones that use water only when used or flushed, Francis said.

The department works to respond quickly to water issues reported in the building and encourages building occupants to report any water leaks as soon as possible.

The grounds and irrigation department at Chico State has also replaced older spray heads with more efficient rotating heads that deliver a much smaller amount of water. Calsense computer controls were installed on Chico State’s larger irrigation systems, Francis said.

This system measures evaporation, humidity and temperature, and watering times are automatically adjusted to times when water is needed, Francis said. If it is raining, the system will not water and turns itself completely off if necessary to avoid flooding.

The University Farm has also taken measures to conserve water as well.

“There has been an ongoing evolution of improving irrigation practices for many years,” said David Daley, interim dean of the University Farm. “Because of the drought, groundwater is less available and there is less water to go around.”

The farm has focused on improving its practices by modifying and improving the systems that they use.

“We can always improve,” Daley said. “In agriculture, part of what we do is make things better.”

Kristina Martinez can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.