Water Goals

water icon roundUC 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

Download a flyer on tips for saving water

    Campus Performance Overview

    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.

    While the drought restrictions have been eased for now, the campus response is to be proactive, from fixing leaks to changing behaviors to finding long-term reduction solutions.

    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 over 600 million gallons of water annually, which is almost 20% less than in 2008 – meaning the campus goal has been met twice over. 

    • Total water use is down 20% since 1990, despite significant growth in population and buildings.
    • 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.

    water statistics graph

    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 continues to install and upgrade water meters in buildings, bringing the total. These digital meters allow Facilities Services to monitor usage online and respond to leaks more quickly.

    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.  

    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 to use less water. 

    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.


    STARS Performance Overview

    Water Category

    According to STARS, "This subcategory seeks to recognize institutions that are conserving water, making efforts to protect water quality and treating water as a resource rather than a waste product. Pumping, delivering, and treating water is a major driver of energy consumption, so institutions can help reduce energy use and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy generation by conserving water. Likewise, conservation, water recycling and reuse, and effective rainwater management practices are important in maintaining and protecting finite groundwater supplies. Water conservation and effective rainwater and wastewater management also reduce the need for effluent discharge into local surface water supplies, which helps improve the health of local water ecosystems."

    STARS notes that, "This credit is weighted more heavily for institutions located in areas of water stress and scarcity and less heavily for institutions in areas with relative water abundance."

    Berkeley's STARS Performance

    Total Points Available: 8.00

    Water Points Claimed: 7.23

    As California has struggled with multiple years of drought, UC Berkeley has deployed water-saving strategies that have lowered per-person water use to some of the most efficient levels in the country.

    • From 2007 to 2016, per person water use dropped by 34 percent.
    • On a square-foot basis, water use fell by 25 percent in that same period.
    • Those numbers reflect the success of campuswide strategies such as messaging about smart water use and the installation of water-saving shower heads, toilets and other installations in campus residence halls.


    • In its STARS Water category, UC Berkeley scored 7.23 out of 8 points, placing the campus well in the top quartile of all universities and colleges in the field.
    • Research and doctoral institutions on average captured about half of available Water category points, compared to 90 percent of points captured by UC Berkeley.
    • The campus also scored full points in the STARS Rainwater Management field due to its Low-Impact Development rainwater practices for all new developments. 
    • Those practices included hiring a full-time Environmental Protection construction liaison who ensures that construction projects on campus do not release pollutants.
    • UC Berkeley also follows a Campus Stormwater Management Plan that monitors water pollutant-releases by non construction-related operations on campus.


    Check out David Sedlak’s presentation: “What are the most promising approaches to providing water in a hotter, drier world?”

    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.

    Every Drop Counts - Download this flyer for your water saving tips.

    Water use by categories, in 2015