How much water could Ashesi save if it adopted best practices from other universities around the world? Based on some back of the envelope calculations, 15 million liters annually by 2022—or more.
I recently read UC-Berkeley’s Water Usage & Conservation Study Report that lays out a number of steps the University will be implementing between 2010 and 2020 in order to reach a total reduction in water use by 20 percent per capita. Many of the water consumption changes are unique to Berkeley’s campus—such was reduced water use in heating systems, laboratories and capture from storm water—which are not appropriate for Ashesi’s water conservation efforts. But a number of the recommendation, particularly those that address dorm use water consumption, are relevant. A long-term conservation effort list from global best practices could include:
- Retrofit current shower heads with low flow shower heads—Shower heads cost about $25 each, including installation, and save about 21 percent of shower water use.
- Perform semi-annual maintenance on sink aerators.
- Replace Urinals with .5 gallons/flush—water saving (75%), cost $650.
- Purchase high-efficiency commercial washer with front-loading, horizontal axis technology—cost $175 per machine, water savings (water savings ranged from 10.5 gallons/cycle (28 percent) to 22.5 gallons per cycle (59 percent) over the baseline washer.
- If irrigation practices become mechanized (sprinklers), rainwater sensors to shut off sprinklers during rain should be installed.
- Increasing indigenous vegetation that is prone to local environmental conditions will reduce irrigation requirements.
- Create awareness campaigns to reduce shower use.
Taking these efforts Berkeley assumes it will reduce water use by about 12 percent. However, there is reason to believe many conservation efforts would carry a bigger ‘bang for their buck’ at Ashesi than at Berkeley. For example, Berkeley assumes an awareness campaign on shower usage would reduce total water consumption by 2.4 percent, but only one quarter of total water use comes from dorms at Berkeley whereas 83 percent comes from dorms at Ashesi. Assuming a similar per capita saving rate, such efforts should yield an 8 percent reduction in total water use at Ashesi. Based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations, I estimate Ashesi could save 18 percent in the short- and medium-term and as much as 25 percent in the medium- and long-term. Given Ashesi’s current growth projections per capita savings rates of 18 percent from 2012-2018 and 20-25 percent from 2018-2022 would save nearly 15 million liters of water annually from Ashesi’s residence halls alone. Most universities in the United States and around the world that establish 10-15 year conservation plans assume reductions of 20-25 percent over that period, so these figures at least look similar to what other schools believe is doable.
There are a few caveats to the projection. First, every university has unique water needs and resources. Ashesi is obviously very different than Berkeley in no shortage of ways. Second, Ashesi students use substantially less water than the average Berkeley student—in fact they use between 178 and 228 percent less annually. From my own personal experience, Ashesi students are already far more water conscious than students in the United States or Western Europe. (For example, it is not uncommon for students to turn off showers while they wash at Ashesi). Given Ashesi students are already more water conscious decreasing use even more may very well be relatively harder at Ashesi than at Berkeley. Regardless, as Ashesi grows, water conservation efforts will have increasingly important implications for the college and Berekuso community. To that end, adopting some simple best-practices could create big savings in the long run.