The importance of water conservation

Water conservation is an important part of sustainability and climate resilience efforts.

While water is relatively abundant and cheap in the Midwest today, droughts are becoming more frequent and severe.

Jesse Bell, PhD, Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Water, Climate and Health at UNMC, said, “Drought is a constant issue in the United States, and it is often overlooked by health professionals. For example, many individuals might be surprised to learn that eastern Nebraska is facing extreme to exceptional drought conditions. Because drought is a significant threat to human health, more work is needed to understand local public health threats associated with drought events.”

Dr. Bell’s team has created multiple resources related to this issue, including health impacts associated with drought and preparedness strategies for health departments.

Water conservation is part of the med center’s sustainability plan. The med center has set a 2030 goal for net zero water — that means using the same amount or less water than the annual amount that falls on campus as rain and snow. Since 2012, the med center has saved approximately 349 million gallons of water — the equivalent of 529 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Strategies for reducing water use have been implemented within buildings and on grounds. Behavior changes through the Every Drop Counts campaign, along with improved landscaping and upgraded infrastructure, have helped the med center make progress toward its goal.

Med center colleagues can support water conservation and the net zero water goal by:

  • Reporting all water leaks to facilities immediately. Here’s the link to submit a work order.
  • Talking with peers about water conservation efforts.
  • Making an announcement about water conversation at staff meetings.
  • Turning the faucet on part way and using only the pressure needed.
  • Avoiding splashing items when putting stuff down the drain. Pour directly into the drain hole, which saves water and time on rinsing.

In research areas, conserve water by:

  • Establishing efficient labware washing practices, such as running dishwashers, autoclaves and cage washers only when they are full, and turning off equipment or putting them into standby mode when not in use.
  • Not unwrapping sterile glassware until needed.
  • Using the water from eyewash station flushing to water plants or rinse dishes.
  • Shutting the fume hood sash, which indirectly saves water by reducing cooling loads and decreasing the makeup water consumed in cooling towers.

For questions or comments, reach out to Jerrod Bley.

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