The University of Michigan has reduced water usage by 3 percent for fiscal year 2010 – the lowest level used in the past seven years, through various conservation methods and its comprehensive storm water management program.
The keystone to the success of U-M’s water management plan, according to the office of public affairs, has been the installation of a water-conserving irrigation system. Installed in 2006, U-M saves an estimated $141,000 a year, and reduces the amount of water used on irrigation by 68 percent.
Since being fully installed, the system has helped the university avoid $564,000 in water costs.
Converted into water, that is a savings of approximately 22 million gallons each year, which is enough to fill 33 Olympic swimming pools or sustain an average household for 172 years.
The total cost of the project was $350,000. Partial funding for the project – $232,700 – was provided by U-M Energy Star Program, a conservation program modeled on the EPA program, encouraging the implementation and use of energy-efficient equipment at the campus.
The computerized irrigation system, called Maxicom from Rain Bird, operates across parts of U-M’s North and Central campus. The system communicates daily with the on-site irrigation controllers through telephone and radio signals. Weather data, such as rainfall totals, is shared with a central computer, which then calculates how much supplemental water campus plants and lawns need.
The system then updates the irrigation schedule. Any overrides to the program can be done at the central computer or remotely by phone. The system also detects leaks and breaks in irrigation equipment and automatically shutoffs water to any damaged area.
Other campus-wide water conservation measures include the installation of low-flow toilets, faucets, showers and urinals in buildings across campus. The university also has water refill stations set up across campus, to offer the community an easy option to use refillable water bottles, instead of purchased plastic bottles.