Irvine Ranch Water District and UC Irvine Save 80 Million Gallons of Drinking Water Annually

By on August 24, 2018
Recycled Water

A joint conservation program between Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) and University of California, Irvine is now poised to save more than 80 million gallons of drinking water annually with the renovation of the university’s Central Plant which has been retrofitted for recycled water to be used for cooling campus buildings. The two organizations claim this to be the most significant accomplishment in the 50-year collaborative conservation relationship between the water district and the university.

“IRWD continues to be in the forefront of recycled water,” said Douglas J. Reinhart, president of the IRWD Board of Directors. “And we are proud of our partnership with UCI.” He was among IRWD and UCI officials who initiated the renovated Central Plant with an Aug. 15 dedication ceremony.

The collaborative Central Plant project entailed laying 3,000 feet of pipeline to transport recycled water from IRWD’s Michelson Water Recycling Plant to the UCI Central Plant. IRWD worked at night for almost a year to avoid interrupting campus traffic by day while UCI worked to retrofit the on-campus plant and installed additional filtration systems to further treat the water.

The UCI Central Plant is responsible for cooling 65 buildings throughout the Orange County campus. With the completion of the joint project UCI will also save 70 million gallons of drinking water per year from previous recycled water irrigation projects completed in collaboration with IRWD. These two projects will allow UCI to achieve its stretch goal to reduce per-capita drinking water use 50 percent by 2025 and it puts the campus well ahead of the statewide University of California goal to cut water usage 36 percent by 2025.

The project calls for water to be dropped through the air to lower its temperature to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The chilled water is then pumped throughout campus in a closed-loop circulation system to cool various structures, thereby reducing the amount of electricity that would otherwise be needed for air conditioning. The process is both a water savings and a savings of electricity for the university.

Wendell Brase, associate chancellor of sustainability at UCI, was present at the Aug. 15 dedication ceremony and praised the project’s completion saying, “UCI is one of the nation’s greenest universities, and we like to set the bar high for environmental stewardship.  This would not be possible without our partnership with IRWD.”

Earlier this year Brase had acknowledged the environmental impact of the Central Plant project when he stated in the UCI News publication, “We’re always looking for ways to strengthen the university’s longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship. This opportunity is a huge step toward our campus goal of reducing the amount of potable water used on campus, and we are pleased to have such a forward-looking partner in the IRWD.”