Water Goals

UC BERKELEY GOAL: Reduce potable water use to 10% below 2008 levels by 2020.

STATUS: On Track

SYSTEM-WIDE GOAL:  Reduce growth adjusted potable water consumption by 36% by 2025 compared to the three-year average baseline of 2006-2008.

STATUS: On Track


Water Infographic

  • Precipitation in our watershed has been more than 100 percent of normal in 2016, but we need to continue to conserve so that reservoirs can reach normal levels. Source
  • Rainfall in 2013 was the lowest in almost 500 years -- since 1580, as reported by Professor Lynn Ingram (Earth & Planetary Science and Geography). Source


Water is an increasingly scarce resource in California, due to population growth and drought. In past years, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has declared droughts and implemented drought management plans that seek to reduce regional water use. Water conservation is even more important when the energy associated with transportation and treatment of water is analyzed.

Water levels in California recently hit the lowest point since records began 100 years ago, and are only beginning to recover. In response to this severe drought, Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a statewide drought emergency, and created mandatory reductions by urban water providers of 25 percent. 

While the drought restrictions are now being eased, the campus response to the drought has been proactive, from fixing leaks to changing behaviors to finding long-term reduction solutions across all areas of consumption.

Concerns about water conservation and the possibility of future water rationing or price increases prompted the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS) to commission a water usage and conservation report in 2009. The recommendations in the report led the Chancellor to set a goal to reduce potable water use to 10% below 2008 levels by 2020.  Since then, the campus has created a Water Action Plan (being updated), and the University of California has set an additional goal to further reduce growth-adjusted water use by 2025.

In total the campus currently uses 614 million gallons of water, which is almost 20% less than in 2008 – meaning the campus goal has been met twice over. Use is estimated to be down 10% since the drought declaration.  Campus water use data now reflects a more accurate accounting of all accounts within the campus operational control.

  • Total water use is down 21% since 1990, despite significant growth in population and buildings.
  • Water use per weighted campus user (WCU) has dropped by 28% relative to the average use 2006-2008, meaning we are on track to meet the system-wide reduction goal.
  • About half of the water consumed on campus is domestic (toilets,urinals, showers, and faucets), divided equally between residence halls and all other campus buildings.
  • About one-quarter of usage is in lab buildings (excluding their domestic usage), with irrigation and the steam plant each using about 10% of the total.
  • Over 90% of irrigation systems are automated and connected to a weather station. Approximately 24,000 gallons of rainwater are reused each year for irrigation at the Boalt Law School, and there is a new stormwater capture and reuse system at Eshleman Hall.

Campus Efforts to Reduce Water Use

Inexpensive retrofits that reduce the flow per flush are being installed in bathrooms in multiple buildings. The new flushometers reduce water use from 3.6 to 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) for toilets and from 3.6 to 1.2 gpf for urinals. Bathrooms in high traffic areas have the greatest return on investment for such a retrofit. 

The campus recently installed and upgraded water meters in over twenty buildings, bringing the total number of metered buildings to 70. These digital meters allow Facilities Services to monitor usage online and respond to leaks more quickly.

In addition to addressing leaks, Facilities Services (FS) also works to investigate water use in some of the largest-consuming campus buildings. Starting with Life Sciences Addition, FS has monitored water meters, worked with building managers to change an Aquatics Lab policy, improved the efficiency of the cooling tower, and investigated the sump and vacuum pumps. The results are impressive: LSA’s water consumption has decreased by 32%

While landscaping accounts for less than 10% of campus water usage, it remains a very visible and important component. Facilities Services and others have worked to upgrade and automate the irrigation system over the last few years. Projects have included installing weather station-based controllers, drip and low precipitation sprinkler heads, and water flow meters on all systems.  Upcoming work includes the installation of new flow switches to ensure repairs happen more quickly in the event of a valve or sprinkler head break.

In addition to increasing the efficiency of the irrigation system, the campus has also reduced the amount of irrigated lawn on campus, converting 3.5 acres of turf in the past year to use less water. This lawn conversion program was originally funded through a TGIF grant, but has now been expanded to convert unused lawns to native and drought tolerant species.

New Water Bottle Refill Stations

There are a lot of reasons to love Berkeley’s tap water. It’s sourced from Sierra Nevada snowmelt, it tastes good, and it’s free.  Now thanks to TGIF grants and other funding, at least 25 water bottle refill stations  installed throughout the campus!  There are also several “bottle fillers” retrofitted to existing ADA-compliant water fountains.

Take the I Heart Tap Water pledge!  A partnership between Cal Dining, Recreational Sports, Environment, Health & Safety, and University Health Services, I Heart Tap Water promotes tap water as the preferred beverage of choice and educates the campus through a website, newsletters, Facebook, posters, and an on-line pledge. 

Water Highlights

New construction and major renovation projects will maximize the number of water use reduction credits as part of the LEED™ certification process.

The campus implements Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans for all campus construction projects to manage stormwater runoff and protect water quality.

I Heart Tap Water, a partnership between Cal Dining, Recreational Sports, Environment, Health & Safety, and University Health Services promotes tap water as the preferred beverage of choice and educates the campus through a website, newsletters, Facebook, posters, and an on-line pledge.

I Heart Tapwater graphic

Water use by categories, in 2015