Lab equipment that uses “once-through” cold water for cooling is one of the largest types of water use on campus.

UBC’s commitment to sustainability includes a reduction in water consumption as a key method of minimizing campus environmental impact. Most laboratory buildings use about 4x more water than standard commercial or institutional buildings. Use of hot water also entails energy consumption, with associated greenhouse gas emissions and costs. Researchers can play an important role in achieving more sustainable water use.

Best practices

The best sustainability solutions are those that reduce both water consumption and do not add significantly to the peak electricity demand. Peak electricity demand typically occurs on weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the coldest and warmest times of the year. Scheduling equipment use outside these hours is preferred.

  • Use closed-loop water recirculation equipment in all of your cooling systems.
  • Avoid the use of open-loop faucet water to draw vacuum for distillation units and filtration processes; use vacuum pumps instead. Note that continuous low-flow cold water distillers use 300 liters/hr.
  • Report leaky faucets to building maintenance.
  • Minimize the use of distillation to purify water (some uses need distillation, but for minor uses it’s better to purchase).
  • Consider using water substitutes such as Bath Armor™ Beads, which can replace water in water baths, aluminum blocks in dry baths, or ice in ice buckets. This would result in both water and cost savings for your lab.
  • Turn off equipment that uses water when not in use, or use timers.
  • Run dishwashers and autoclaves only when full.
  • Install Aerators for taps in your lab – Faucet aerators are sink attachments that reduce water flow. Installing efficient faucet aerators is a simple and inexpensive way to reduce water consumption in the lab, without sacrificing lab productivity. To estimate water savings from installing faucet aerators, the flow rate before implementation and after implementation should be calculated, or water meters may be installed. Efficient (recommended) faucet aerators have a flow rate of 9.5 liters/minute.
  • Refer to the Green Products List for relevant green products.
  • Help educate research colleagues on lab water conservation, and work together to develop water efficient solutions.

Retrofit open-loop water systems

If your lab has open-loop water systems – e.g., once-through water used for cooling or vacuum (aspirators or distillation), retrofitting will dramatically reduce water consumption. Learn more here.

Want to learn more?

  • Read about the UBC Water Action Plan to learn about water consumption initiatives and water management innovation techniques at UBC.