Water sustainability at UBC
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Canada has the highest water consumption per capita in the world, and Vancouver having the highest population, water consumption is significantly high. The water consumption in the University of British Columbia in Vancouver is significantly high due UBC being the largest university in British Columbia. Due to the high population, the consumption of water sums up to about four billion litres a year, able to fill 1,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Water Action Plan
To implement change in the water consumption, UBC sustainability team created an initiative to conserve called the Water Action Plan in 2011 in hopes to reduce and recycle water on campus. Two landmarks for creating water sustainability are the CIRS and the C. K. Choi Building. The Centre for Interactive Sustainability (CIRS) building features a closed loop water system where water is recycled and reused. On the other hand, the C. K. Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Research, consists of composting toilets, which reduce domestic water consumption. These toilets use an alternative other than using water for flushing and produce fertilizer that can be used for growing plants. Conclusively, these toilets allow for conservation of water, landfill space, energy, and also production of quality fertilizer.
Water Conservation Initiatives
For over 20 years, UBC has been implementing change and water consumption policies through two initiatives, ECOTrek and UBC Renew.
ECOTrek is Canada's largest sustainability project which undertook an enormous water and energy saving initiative. This project included rebuilding almost 300 academic buildings in UBC. This project achieved a World Clean Energy nomination, which are honorable awards for successful projects in energy efficiency and renewable energy realm. The water management involved conducting changes to toilets, urinals, basins and water-cooled equipment to reduce the amount of water on campus. In addition, steam and water meters were installed on campus to quantify the water consumption to provide a clear depiction of the water use in each building.
UBC Renew project involves renovating aging institutional buildings, instead of demolishing and building new buildings which can have negative impacts on the environment. Demolition can have major environmental impacts as it can pollute the soil, increase air pollutants, and increase water consumption. Renovating old buildings can save large volumes of water and save energy costs.
A Community Effort
Beyond the UBC sustainability team, a student-driven initiative is taking place in making a bottled-water free campus in hopes of reducing bottled water on campus and to encourage students to engage in environmentally friendly behaviours. Production of bottled water puts strain on the environment and increases landfill space. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature 2001 report, about 1.5 million tons of plastic is used for bottling 89 billion litres of water each year.