The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Calendar year 2013 was the driest year in history for many areas in the state and the 2014 drought is shaping up to be the most serious one ever recorded. Gov. Jerry Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent.
In January 2014, the San Mateo County Community College District, under direction from the Board of Trustees, set a goal of 25 percent reduction in water use at our three colleges — Cañada College, College of San Mateo and Skyline College. We have not yet achieved that goal but are determined to do so by the end of this year and have a four-step plan in place to accomplish that. We continue to monitor and adjust our efforts and appreciate community input and expressed concerns.
Since January, we have taken a number of steps to accomplish the goal, including:
• Reduced landscape watering by 25 percent at all three colleges;
• Calibration and use of a weather-based irrigation system at Skyline College and CSM which regulates irrigation levels according to on-site weather patterns;
• Conducted an audit of irrigation and domestic water systems to find and fix leaks and to identify areas where higher efficiency fixtures can be installed;
• Implemented ultralow flow fixtures for domestic water uses;
• Installed drought resistant plantings whenever new planting is necessary; and
• Installed bottle filling stations at water fountains and use of water pitchers at meetings to discourage use of bottled water.
Many years ago, the district converted all of its athletic playing fields — nine in total — from grass to artificial turf. With more than 800,000 gross square feet of playing surface used year round, water savings are estimated to be more than 60 million gallons since the fields were installed in 2003. In addition to water savings, the maintenance required for the fields is significantly less, saving approximately $200,000 in operational costs each year.
The college district is committed to creating and maintaining sustainable campuses — not only in water usage but also in energy use, solid waste disposal and building efficiency. For years, our district has led the state in higher education sustainability efforts. In 2007-08, we made a commitment to have all new buildings LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). We currently have five Gold LEED and one Silver LEED buildings which saves energy and provides higher indoor air quality and comfort for students and faculty.
At Cañada College, we have a solar farm under construction that will offset nearly half of all energy use on campus and will produce renewable electrical energy for the district’s use for many years to come. This project was funded by the college district, PG&E Savings by Design and by state Proposition 39 energy efficiency funds.
Campus housing provided for faculty and staff has provided affordable living space and helped save more than 200,000 commute miles annually, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving overall quality of life.
We take very seriously our community obligation to “reduce, reuse and recycle,” saving energy, money and natural resources. Each college has a campus sustainability plan and Campus Sustainability Committees that monitor these efforts and also foster environmental awareness on campus.
The college district has received a number of sustainability awards beginning in 2005 with the “Flex Your Power” award from the Leadership in Educational Facilities organization through June of this year when we received a national higher education Award for Sustainability and Environmental Stewardship in Educational Facilities.
We have made a commitment to “conserve, preserve and care for the Earth’s resources” and will continue our sustainability efforts with this as our guide.