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Saturday, June 3, 2023


University given B+ on water usage

Rice University’s recent announcement of a new air condensation recycling system, which, along with similar projects, will save 12 to 14 million gallons of water a year, has received some good publicity in the local media.

UH’s similar system, however, has gone largely unnoticed.

The College of Natural Science and Mathematics’ cold-distilled air conditioning condensate conserves water by being redirected to cooling towers and also helps save on chemical treatment due to its purity.

UH, which was ranked B+ along with Rice on, will also soon begin working on integrating low-flow (water efficient) plumbing fixtures.

These improvements will compliment the recently-installed leak monitoring system.

According to a Daily Cougar report that ran earlier this month, this system “allows for the detection and notification of leaks and the automatic cutoff of the irrigation control system in that area.”

A 2009 Green UH report said UH spent about $2.5 million on 358.3 million gallons of water and the treatment of about 236.2 million gallons of waste water.

Approximately 122.1 million gallons were lost to evaporation in the cooling towers of the Central Plant, about 30 million gallons were used for landscaping and about 185 million gallons were used in buildings.

About 1 percent of the system’s water came from recaptured steam and condensate from heating and cooling processes.

The report goes on to say that each building and groundskeeping zone should have its own meter to determine trends and reduce extravagant spending with the city by renegotiating the water utility contract.

The two risks of this strategy, according to the survey, are that “the City of Houston may demand a higher rate for water utilities in return for the reduction in water usage being paid for by the University” and “the actual cost of installing the meters may be higher than anticipated, creating a longer than predicted period of return on the investment.”

According to a 2010 survey by, only 50 percent of UH’s buildings are independently metered for water usage.

Only 20 percent of steam and chilled water is metered.

The survey also states that “administration and finance has a disposable water bottle ban (that) started Fall 2009,” which shouldn’t be inferred to be a campus-wide ban, but merely a departmental ban on the purchasing of bottled water for staff.

The school is also supposed to have “water filling stations at key areas to encourage them (students) to drink water and to use multiple-use water bottles instead of single-use,” though it is unclear where these stations are located.

The survey indicates that water conservation measures that are not being implemented at UH include dual-flush toilets, gray water systems, laundry technology, low-flow showerheads, non-potable water usage, waterless urinals, and xeriscaping.

Low-flow showerheads are being used at Rice and are expected to pay for themselves within a few months. Dual-flush toilets, which allow flushers the option of using less water for liquid waste, are also being used at Rice.

For more information about the school’s water conservation ranking visit

For more information about the school’s water initiatives, visit

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