Palo Alto Unified School District – In response to the drought, PAUSD launched a program to convert non-athletic irrigated turf grass to native plant gardens and natural meadow areas. So far six schools have participated in the program, and the District plans to expand it into more of its remaining 13 sites. In total, these projects have removed more than 20,000 square feet of turf from PAUSD sites. The District also adopted an Integrated Pest Management approach to keeping the plants alive and healthy without the use of toxic pesticides. Through matching rebate programs administered by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and City of Palo Alto Utilities, the turf conversions have generated more than $42,000 in water saving rebates, which go back into the schools’ general budgets. Additionally, the District has performed indoor and outdoor water use surveys at all school sites and retrofitted or replaced hundreds of fixtures, including toilets, urinals, showerheads, aerators and irrigation hardware for maximum water use efficiency. Using 2013 as a baseline for comparison, the District has reduced its water consumption by 29%.
Foothill College Environmental Horticulture Program – Over the past several years, Foothill College has become a living lab for water conservation. Cooling tower water is captured and used to supplement the campus-wide irrigation system, saving approximately 50,000 gallons per year. Rainwater from the roofs of the Environmental Horticulture Department’s propagation and construction buildings is captured and use for irrigating nursery plants, saving 30,000 gallons per year. Not only have these projects saved water, they also are used to showcase water conservation techniques to numerous tour groups, and are highlighted in more than a dozen courses and all-day seminars, including “Mastering Drip: Strategies for Correct Watering in a Drier California,” and “Saving Water: Creating Beauty with California Native Plants.”
Canopy – A non-profit organization that promotes tree planting and care in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and neighboring communities, Canopy selects drought-tolerant species that require no irrigation after a three-year establishment period. Their East Palo Alto Tree Initiative planted 1,000 trees in East Palo Alto, adding 20% to the City’s street tree urban forest. Their "Healthy Trees, Healthy Kids!" initiative planted 1,000 trees at local schools over the past three years. Canopy engages more than 1,500 volunteers each year, stressing water conservation at all stages of urban forestry: landscape design, species selection, irrigation choices and tree care. Their programs ensure that urban trees continue to provide water-related benefits, such as saving water as their shade slows evaporation from landscaped areas, diffusing rainfall, reducing runoff, recharging groundwater and preventing harmful herbicides and fertilizers from entering waterways. A recent Canopy innovation includes using DriWater gel that delivers water to young trees at one-tenth the amount supplied by conventional irrigation. Canopy also successfully advocated for improving recycled water quality from the local wastewater treatment facility to reduce salinity to levels suitable for the irrigation of most landscape trees.
First Community Housing – As a local nonprofit affordable housing developer, First Community Housing has implemented a comprehensive water management and conservation program at its new Fourth Street Family Apartments in downtown San Jose. Located on a 0.75-acre infill site, Fourth Street provides 100 units (1-3BR) of high-quality affordable housing for extremely low to low-income tenants, with 35 units set aside for the developmentally disabled. The building has received LEED Platinum certification. Through the use of water-efficient plumbing fixtures, drought tolerant landscaping, and a water-efficient irrigation system, Fourth Street uses 35% less potable water indoors and 58% less potable water for irrigation compared to a conventional building. The 5,200 square-foot living rooftop is engineered to retain and filter storm water, thereby reducing the burden on the City of San Jose’s storm drain system. The plants on the roof are organically-grown native, drought-tolerant species requiring minimal irrigation, and the growing medium is free of pesticides, resulting in improved water quality and a healthy habitat for wildlife such as birds, insects and butterflies. This project is proof positive that significant water savings and other environmental benefits can be achieved even in the challenging context of a budget-constrained affordable housing development.
Our City Forest is an urban ecology nonprofit located in San Jose. They use virtually 100% recycled water to irrigate plants in their brand new community nursery and training center. With the San José City Council's goal of planting 100,000 trees, OCF is playing a key role in achieving that success. Their nursery has the capacity to cultivate more than 5,000 trees for distribution to parks, schools and residents of San Jose and neighboring communities. Drought-resistant plants are grown in nursery rows, as well as in a greenhouse, where native seedlings are cultivated. Xeriscaping throughout the premises further reduces water consumption while providing beauty to all who visit.
San Jose State University – For more than a decade, SJSU has been a leader in water conservation. An early adopter of recycled water for landscape irrigation, indoor plumbing and industrial cooling, the University is on track to reduce its potable water use by more than 45%, from 170 million gallons per year in 2001 to 91 million gallons per year in 2011. Since 2000, SJSU has worked closely with the City of San Jose to use recycled water supplied by South Bay Water Recycling to cool its central plant and irrigate athletic fields. This program has resulted in the conservation of 40 million gallons of potable water annually. In the process, the University has saved more than $100,000 per year in avoided water and chemical costs. On March 1, 2011 the University celebrated its “first flush” at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, where 87 toilets and 30 urinals began using recycled water. This application alone is projected to offset five million gallons of potable water per year. The University also is retrofitting the irrigation of its entire 88-acre main campus, and by September 2011 recycled water will be applied to an additional 20 acres of turf and landscaping, conserving 39 million gallons of potable water per year.
Humane Society Silicon Valley – In 2009 HSSV hosted the grand opening of its new Animal Community Center in Milpitas. The 48,000 square-foot center is a registered Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project and is on track to be one of the first LEED Gold Certified animal community centers in the nation. Through aggressive efficiency measures, the new facility will use 45% less water than comparable facilities. HSSV invested in a high pressure kennel cleaning system requiring only 2.2 gallons per minute, and installed high efficiency plumbing fixtures and laundry appliances throughout the facility. They installed artificial turf rather than natural grass in the community dog parks and use native plants in landscaping.
Stanford University (Large Organization) has implemented a comprehensive water conservation program that has reduced daily campus use from 2.7 to 2.3 million gallons per day since 2001.
The Kirsch Center for Environmental Studies’ (Small Organization) LEED-certified green building dramatically reduces indoor water use, and native plants reduce landscape irrigation by 50%.
First Community Housing (Multiple Benefit) incorporated water conservation measures that reduced indoor use by 35% and outdoor use by 64%. A green roof retains 80% of rain fall.
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