Maintaining an adequate water supply while protecting natural ecosystems will become even more challenging in the era of climate change and population growth. That’s why a coalition of 19 water agencies, environmental organizations and business networks hosts the annual Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards.
Now in its fifth year, the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards Coalition is pleased to announce the 2013 winners: Business: Life Scan (Milpitas), Government Agency: County of Santa Clara, Organization: First Community Housing (San Jose), Greenscape Management: East Side Union High School District (San Jose), Education: Linda Gass & Shaped by Water (Los Altos), and Water Champion: Arvind Kumar (San Jose).
Over the last decade, Life Scan has successfully completed water conservation and recycled water projects, that have resulted in a reduction of more than 90% of potable water use on its campus. In 2009, LifeScan completed the first industrial recycled water project in Milpitas by partnering with the City and South Bay Water Recycling. The recycled water is used to feed three 700-ton cooling towers that are part of the HVAC chilled water plant. In 2012, recycled water made up 93% of Life Scan’s total water usage.
Through water efficient technology and landscaping, as well as education of building occupants and staff, the County of Santa Clara has achieved over 50 million gallons of water savings and uses almost 10 million gallons of recycled water per year. Their Green Building Policy encourages retrofits, remodels, renovations, and new buildings to be designed as energy and water efficient as possible. The County also encourages others to strive for water use efficiency through its Green Business Program.
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. 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.
An early adopter of reclaimed water for landscape irrigation, the East Side Union High School District has reduced its use of potable water for irrigation by 30%, conserving 67 million gallons of potable water per year. District groundskeepers also chip tree trimmings and use the mulch to reduce surface evaporation. The District has converted 11 football fields to synthetic turf, conserving 75 million gallons of water per year. In 2012, the District replaced 61 toilets with water efficient models and retrofitted 216 urinals with low flow flush valves, conserving over 31,000 gallons of potable water annually.
Spearheaded by Linda Gass and a team of volunteers, “Shaped by Water: Past, Present and Future” is a traveling exhibition that examines the role of water and water conservation in shaping the history of Santa Clara Valley – and its future. This free interactive exhibit utilizes indoor and outdoor displays incorporating photographs, maps, videos, activities, sound and artwork to inspire a deepened connection to the water that sustains us. It asks the question: “Can history teach us to become better stewards of our water?” An interactive map of California allows visitors to press a button to identify the source of their water and locate local reservoirs, percolation ponds and other water supply infrastructure. A 72-foot long display features 153 one-gallon water bottles (the average daily per-capita water use in Santa Clara Valley) color-coded to show typical average use for landscape irrigation, toilet flushing, showers, etc.
Arvind Kumar has worked tirelessly to promote drought-tolerant California native plants throughout the Bay Area and the State. Arvind was instrumental in the development and on-going success of the Going Native Garden Tour, which will celebrate its 11th anniversary in May. As part of the Tour, thousands of people visit showcase gardens featuring native plants. These gardens are exemplary models of how landscaping with natives can reduce water, chemical and pesticide use, improve wildlife habitat, and provide a unique aesthetic appeal. Attendees learn that water use can decrease by nearly 90% when traditional, high water use landscapes are replaced with native gardens.