Water Conservation

Water use at UBC goes beyond the drinking fountain, and conserving water has been one of our key water management strategies for the last 20 years. We’ve reduced our water use significantly through initiatives like ECOTrek and UBC Renew, and through water conservation policies for new buildings on campus.

Due to global climate change, extreme weather events like windstorms, floods and drought are expected more frequently in our region. Effective water management helps UBC and the region become more resilient to weather-related events.

Water Consumption

Approximately four billion litres of potable water are consumed at UBC a year, at a cost of about $2.5 million. In 2011, we conducted a Water Audit as part of our Water Action Plan to determine water use on campus. The largest end uses of water include process cooling and research, washroom facilities, irrigation and showers.

Breakdown of Water Consumption at UBC-Vancouver by End Use

Breakdown of Water Consumption at UBC-Vancouver by End Use

Water Conservation Initiatives

Through various efforts, UBC achieved a 50 per cent reduction in water consumption in institutional buildings in 2011/12, compared to 2000 levels (adjusted for growth). These ongoing initiatives contributed to our success.

Existing Building Retrofits

Through the ECOTrek project (2001-2007), UBC retrofitted 288 academic buildings with energy and water efficiencies.

UBC continues to upgrade existing building water systems through UBC Renew, an ongoing initiative launched in 2004 that renovates buildings that would otherwise be replaced.

Building Design and New Construction

Water efficiency is integrated into all new construction at UBC. New institutional buildings must achieve a minimum LEED Gold certification, including a 30 per cent reduction in water use.

UTown@UBC neighbourhoods are model green residential communities built to UBC’s stringent Residential Environmental Assessment Program (REAP) guidelines. Low-flow fixtures, efficient irrigation and ecologically-sound planting are mandatory for all new UTown@UBC residences.

Water Conservation in Laboratories

Labs at UBC use significantly more water per square foot than standard commercial buildings, to meet cooling and research demands. UBC’s Green Research Program identifies and implements ways to reduce water consumption in labs.

Initiatives to date include: featuring water conservation in the Virtual Green Lab Tour and Green Research Challenge; providing labs with products, practices and information that allow for water conservation; discouraging the use of open loop cooling systems; and awarding a Fischer Scientific Fund grant to a project implementing an alternative to water aspirators in labs.

Breakdown of Water Consumption at UBC-Vancouver by End Use

Water Consumption in Institutional Buildings, adjusted for growth, 2000-2011

Water Management Innovations

Two signature academic buildings demonstrate our water management milestones.

C.K. Choi Building for The Institute of Asian Research

Composting toilets, which do not require water for flushing, were installed during construction of the C.K. Choi building in 1996. While these toilets have achieved their water conservation objectives, the solid and liquid outputs produced need to be handled differently than originally intended.  In 2011, the operating regime was changed so that the partially-composted contents of the toilets are periodically pumped out for separate processing off campus, and the small amount of liquid generated is sent to the sanitary sewer, along with grey water from sinks. Based on experience to date, pumping out is expected to be required no more than every 18 months.  Rainwater from the building roof is collected separately and used for irrigating the landscape.

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS)

The CIRS building, opened in 2011, features a closed loop water system. All potable water in the building is supplied by rainwater harvested on the roof and stored in the ground. Wastewater is treated in the building and re-used for irrigation and toilet flushing.

What You Can Do

Report a leaky faucet, showerhead, or toilet

If you spot any leaky faucets, showerheads or toilets at UBC, please contact the Building Operations Service Centre online or at 604-822-2173 to report the issue.