Los Angeles, Water, and Harvey Mudd College An Evaluation of Water Use at Harvey Mudd College

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5On-Going Results and Future Work

5.1Daily Per Person Usage

Using data from the most recent complete school year, HMC uses 119 Gal/day per person (1000 people includes students/faculty/staff), which is just less than the L.A. average of 122 Gal/day [xxvi]. We also use less than Pomona which averages 139 Gal/day [Error: Reference source not found]. However, we are well above the national average of 100 Gal/day and the German/French usage of 55-60 Gal/day [Error: Reference source not found]. It is likely that the difference between Harvey Mudd’s water usage and the national average as well as the Germans and French has more to do with irrigation water than anything else. The majority of the rest of the nation as well as Germany and France get significantly more rainfall than we do here, so their water cost of irrigation is going to less then ours (Figure 5 .13). It is also likely that the difference between Harvey Mudd and Pomona can be attributed to the larger landscaped area at Pomona. According to our estimates, dorm and dining use per student (excluding irrigation and academic use) averages 57 Gal/day. This is inline with the usage per person in a lower irrigation environment like Germany or France, which serves as a validation for our estimates.

Figure 5.13: Average yearly precipitation in Los Angeles, Death Valley, Berlin, and New York City. The red line indicates the official desert line of 250mm.

While the difference between HMC and the rest of the nation can probably be attributed to the relative levels of precipitation, the proximity of HMC’s daily per person usage to the L.A. average is somewhat disheartening. We would hope that as an institution we would be able to reduce our per person water usage significantly below the amount used in the typical suburban sprawl. Along these lines, while we are not significantly below the L.A. average, we are significantly below the Claremont average of 343 Gal/day per person [Error: Reference source not found]. It should also be noted that Pete Gleick at the Pacific Institute estimated that the bare minimum water needed for an acceptable quality of life in developing countries was 13.2 Gal/day per person [Error: Reference source not found]. This of course did not include irrigation, but did include basic sanitation, cooking, and drinking water. This number is provided here only to put water use in perspective as our ability to turn on the water and have clean potable water is often taken for granted.

5.2Recommendations to Refine Resolution of End Uses

As part of our efforts this semester we came up with a list of places where additional meters would be most helpful for refining water usage data on campus. We ended up suggesting separate meters for the dining hall and for the academic cooling towers. These internal meters could be read monthly by either students or by F&M. It looks like funding is coming through for these meters and that they will be installed sometime in 2007 assuming all goes well. These meters will allow for a much better breakdown of usage on campus. Should additional meters be approved, we recommend that singling out individual dorms would be the best next step.

The ideal situation would have been to put individual meters on each building. This, however, was not economically feasible due to the cost of metering. Meters are surprisingly expensive, on the order of $3,000 - $5,000 for the size meters we would want to place on a building. That does not include installation costs. Given that we only spend about $120,000 a year on water, spending $3,000 - $5,000 per building to monitor water use across campus does not make economic sense. So, we realized that we would have to choose a small number of strategic locations that would best help refine the resolution of end uses on Harvey Mudd’s campus. Our choice of location was further restricted by pipe size and location. As a rule of thumb, the larger the pipe is, the more expensive the meter will be. Furthermore, if the pipe is located underground, like the N. Mills Line, there are increased installation costs for the excavation to get to it. If an underground pipe is run along with other utilities like electricity or gas, then the cost and risk of installation goes up even more since the water line would have to be cut while in amongst those other service lines. Given these limitations, we arrived at our decision to request meters for the dining hall and the academic cooling towers, both of which are above ground installations on relatively small pipes.

Even though we suspect dining is a small percentage of the total campus usage, it is the only case in which one building accounts for an entire end use. We also have no good way to estimate the amount of water needed for cooking, so there is a good chance that our estimate could be inaccurate if our assumption of negligible cooking water turns out to be false. The second meter that we recommended on the academic cooling towers was put in place because these are the largest cooling towers on campus. We think that they might account for a large percentage of academic use (after the Eckert, Sparks, Chen lab) and so being able to quantify that amount would go a long way to quantify academic use. We also chose them because they are the cooling towers responsible for the largest square footage on campus. If we then assume similar performance between these cooling towers and the other evaporative cooling towers on HMC, we can use data from that meter to estimate the use of other cooling towers (i.e. Kingston and Case/Linde) based on the square footage they serve. Tom Shaffer has suggested that for some of the cooling towers, the assumption of similar performance may not be a good one, but this meter is the best step we can take at the moment to get a handle on cooling tower use.

5.3New Information Resources

In the course of our research this semester we found out about the Association for the Advancement of Higher Education (AASHE). Thanks to the Office of the Dean of Faculty we were able to become a member institution. This is particularly exciting as it is a great online resource open to every student and faculty member of HMC. AASHE offers a database of reports compiled by other higher education institutions on sustainability efforts on their campus and provides a basis for collaborative efforts in sustainability. It is our hope that the work done by this project, as well as that by the various campus groups, can be added to AASHE’s repository.

Anyone can access the AASHE materials with just their Harvey Mudd email address. The website is www.aashe.org.

5.4What about those Flush-Less Urinals?

The plaques above the flush-less urinals tell us that each urinal saves 40,000 Gal a year. Our estimates for bathroom usage on the academic end suggest that the urinals in fact save less than 1% of our total water usage each year. While we do not want to suggest that saving water is a bad thing, it is likely that the cost of the replacement cartridges for the urinals make the economic savings in this case minimal or nonexistent.

Saving water for the sake of saving water address two of the three costs, social and environmental, but it fails to address the third, economic, which is often the motivation for such measures. While gestures like the flush-less urinals certainly make an impression and can go a long way to putting HMC in a position of leadership with regard to water conservation, such actions that do not have clear economic benefit should be embarked upon carefully so as not to jade the institution against future endeavors.

5.5Preliminary Look at the Feasibility of a Cistern System

There is no doubt that installing a cistern system would be expensive, at least on the order of hundreds of thousands. However, if HMC ever gets to a point where the conservation of water becomes more important than the economic cost of water, or the economic cost of water rises to the point where it becomes a more costly resource, installing a cistern system could become a viable option.

The major contributors to a cistern system would be rainfall on campus, runoff from landscaping, and possibly grey water from showers and faucets. Since our landscaping system is designed to water according to what the plants and soil need given the current weather, runoff should be limited and a quick look at rainfall can give us an idea of whether or not such a system could become feasible.

In Claremont we get about 14 inches of rain a year. HMC’s campus is about 34 acres. That means that over 34 acre-feet fall on HMC’s campus a year. That is about 15,000 CCF a year, which is about a quarter of our total usage currently. Assuming that we are able to collect 50% of the rainwater that falls on HMC, it would account for 20% of the landscaping usage on HMC. Since the water would be untreated, its only real use would be landscaping. Those are conservative estimates, and we would likely be able to design a system that is more efficient than this. If we also collected sprinkler run off from the sidewalks and some grey water from the dishwashers, showers, and faucets we could likely dramatically increase this amount. While it is true that the water from these sources would probably need some filtering, it would likely not be prohibitive. Even with reclaiming 20% of the landscaping usage, at current prices that amounts to about $15,000 a year in savings. Which means that there would be a finite payback time for the system.

5.6Future Work Recommendations

Future work on water should focus on campus awareness and conservation efforts. It is clear from our breakdown that students have the ability to directly affect the bottom line of the water usage on campus. Additionally, public support for Mike Barber and his team would also be generated simply by publicizing their landscaping efforts, as they have done a tremendous job of replacing water-hungry ground cover with California native plants and low-flow drip systems. Also, we found that the current master landscape plan is mostly immutable by F&M. However, a strong outcry from the students could easily allow for drawing up a new plan that replaces even more of the water-thirsty vegetation with California natives, though careful consideration should me made of the value of lawn areas before they are removed.

Direct continuation of the work would include gathering more data from the water audit kits to paint a better picture of dorm usage. We can get a reasonable number from Atwood, but it would be better if this were adjusted across the other dorms based on relative shower flow rates (since showers probably account for the majority of dorm usage). It would also be good to check the approximation using Atwood against estimates derived from water audit data. Additionally, a different audit of the various academic labs would allow for a better approximation of their water use as well as better identify where the major water users are. Hopefully, the meters we recommended will be installed at the beginning of the coming summer, so that that data will become available to students continuing to look at water in the future.

All the data collected in the process of this project has been submitted to Professors Haskell and Lynn so that it should be available to future students who wish to pick up where we left off.


This study was only possible through the cooperation of numerous people and groups. We’d like to thank Tom Shaffer and Mike Barber for the virtually endless meetings and help provided as well as Jon Roberts HM ‘93, Andrew Dorantes, Theresa Potter, Femke Oldham PO ‘07, Jeff Groves, Holly Hauck, Danny Goroff, Paul Steinberg, Maria Klawe, The Center for Environmental Studies, MOSS, and ESW.

Appendix A: California Native Plants Used on Harvey Mudd Campus

1. Arctostaphylos 'john dourley'

2. Arctostaphylos denisflora ' Howard'

3. Arctostaphylos edmundsii

4. Ceanothus 'Concha'

5. Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman'

6. Erigeron Glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

7. Heteromeles arbutifolia

8. Heuchera Maxima

9. Iris Douglasiana

10. Mahonia aquifolium

11. Mahonia repens

12. Mimulus alaongiflorus

13. Rhamnus Californica 'Eve case'

14. Rhus Ovata

15. Ribes Sanguineum glutinosum

16. Salvia chamaedryoides

17. Salvia clevelandii

18. Zauschneria californica

19. Arbutus Unedo 'compacta'

20. Carpenteria californica

21. Ceanothus G. Var ahaorizontalis

22. Cercis Occidentalis

23. Echium fastuosum

24. Fremontodendron 'california glory'

25. Heuchera Sanguinea 'Suzanna'

26. Mahonia Repens

27. Prunus Ilicifolia

28. Rhaphiolepis 'Ballerina'

29. Romney coulteri

30. trachelospermum jasminoides

31. trichostema Lanatum

32. Yucca Whipplei

Appendix B: Water Audit Form

Dorm: __________ Room/Suite Number (or Case L): _________ Date: ________

Water Audit Form for Dorm Facilities

April 4, 2007

Version 1.0
This water audit is being conducted as part of a larger look at water usage on Harvey Mudd College campus. For questions or more information, please contact Whitney Buchanan at wbuchanan@hmc.edu.
Faucet Flow Rate:

Use the smaller 10 cup container and the stopwatch. Time the flow for approximately 10-15 seconds and measure the volume of water from the faucet for that time period. Record time and volume below:

Time: _______ seconds Volume: _______ cups
Shower Flow Rate:

Using the large graduated bucket and stopwatch, time the flow for approximately 30 seconds and measure the volume of water from the shower for that time period. Record time and volume below:

Time: _______ seconds Volume: _______ cups
Static Pressure:

Unscrew the aerator from one of the sink faucets. Run your finger around the inside of your faucet to remove any gunk that might be in there as it may damage the pressure gauge if it gets in there. Screw in the pressure gauge and using the adapter provided. Get it as tight as you can, and then turn on the water. Read off the pressure. Record it below:

Pressure: _______ psi
Note: We have provided pliers to help you remove the pressure gauge as it can be difficult to remove. Please be careful not to cut your fingers on the threads.
Toilet rating:

If the toilet has a flow rating printed on it (usually located behind the seat), please record it below. If not, cirlce “no rating”:

Rating: ______gal/flush No rating

Please list any other observations you have about your bathroom/kitchen facilties (i.e. any leaks, pressure variations etc.) Use the back of this sheet.

Auditor Contact Info:

Name:__________________________ Email:______________________

Appendix C: Shower Time Audit Form

Dorm: __________ Room/Suite Number (or Case L): _________ Date: ________

Shower Usage Tally

This data is being collected as part of a larger look at water usage on Harvey Mudd College campus. For questions or more information, please contact Whitney Buchanan at wbuchanan@hmc.edu.

Please list the date, time, and approximate duration of your shower.

Date Time Duration

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

______________ _________________ __________________

When full, please return to Whitney Buchanan’s mailbox, or contact wbuchanan@hmc.edu for pick up.


1 An idea originally presented to us by Professor Jeff Groves.


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[] Access Date: 2 May 2007


[] Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. Pgs. 52-103.

ix[] Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society: St. Francis Dam. Access Date: 2 May 2007.

x[] “Notice of Reopening of Comment Period on Draft Recovery Plan for the Wetland and Aquatic Species of the Owens Basin, Inyo and Mono Counties, California and Related Public Information Workshops.” Environmental Protection Agency. Access Date: 2 May 2007.

xi[] Walker, Courtney. “Water Returns to Owens River, Reclaiming “the Switzerland of California” from the Desert.” California Progress Report. Access Date: 2 May 2007.

xii[] Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. Pgs. 120-144, 255-305.

xiii[] “State Water Project-Overview” State of California Department of Water Resources. Access Date: 2 May 2007.


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[] Access Date: 2 May 2007.


[] “U.S. Supreme Court. Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128 (1976). Access Date: 2 May 2007.


[] Rothfeder, Jeffrey. Every Drop For Sale. New York: Penguin Books, 2004. Pgs. 57-65.


[] “Refining Estimates of Water-Related Energy Use in California” California Energy Commission. Access Date: 2 May 2007.


[] Golden State Water Company: Schedule No. R3-1


[] City of Claremont Municipal Code. Access Date: 2 May 2007.


[] “Estimating Freshwater Needs to Meet 2025 Electricity Generating Capacity Forecasts.” Department of the Interior. Access Date: 3 May 2007


[] Alexander, Greg, Chris Hanusa, Ryan Kirby, Marci La Violette, Jill Sohm, and Tracy van Cort. “Regional Landscape Clinic: Final Report.” Access Date: 3 May 2007.


[] Jim Eckert. Interview with Whitney Buchanan. April 24, 2007.

xxiv[] Champion 64 KPRB 86” Specifications. Received from Tom Shaffer.

xxv[] Per Bill Casey, General Manager, HMC Dining Services


[] National Wildlife Foundation. Access Date: 3 May 2007.

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