Release Date: October 11, 2017

Caltech Saves Gallons Without Changing the Flow of Campus Life

You know the value of every drop if you live in the golden state. Even though water usage is systematically managed, dry seasons affect California and the people who live there. Drought causes economic and environmental challenges – lost crops, fires, land degradation, animal survival, and the list goes on.


From Bright Minds to Water Sense

Caltech, the world renowned science and engineering institute in Pasadena, has a deep understanding of the changing hydrologic cycle in California and recognizes the importance of being a responsible steward of water resources. It’s committed to becoming more efficient in its water use, while maintaining the capability to conduct its core mission of research and education.

For Caltech, change starts with conversation and leads to action. The institute’s plumbing shop regularly retrofits its water systems, from cooling towers to plumbing fixtures. But even with its own in-house experts, Caltech needed more bandwidth to make a campus-wide upgrade happen. Fortunately, opportunity and timing aligned.

The City of Pasadena Water & Power approached Caltech about its water conservation programs. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, regional water supply wholesaler, teamed up with PWP to offer water saving services and valuable rebate incentives. It’s truly local government and the business sector working together to bring smarter water solutions at a more affordable upfront cost.

Group Effort is Greater Reward

The water conservation team visited Caltech’s impressive 124-acre campus. With oversight from the institute’s plumbing experts, they completed the efficiency studies and offered water saving options, along with the calculated project costs after rebate and the return from future savings.

The institute decided to move forward with retrofitting its restroom urinals campus-wide. It would take time and resources, but the program rebate offset enough of the project costs for a faster payback. Not to mention, the project would benefit the institute and surrounding communities. Every flush from a urinal or toilet system uses gallons of water – water that is a shared, sourced resource in California.

“We completed smaller urinal retrofit projects consistently over the past several years, but we needed to really move the meter with regard to water consumption. The program fit our initiative and wouldn’t have been possible without collaborative effort by the whole project team.”

– John Onderdonk, Director of Sustainability Programs at Caltech

Highly efficient urinals optimize flow by using more power with less water. Muir-Chase Plumbing retrofitted Zurn Retrofit Pint urinal systems in every bathroom across campus. Today, Caltech’s upgraded urinals consume 87% less water than traditional 1.0 gpf, exceeding the LEED 30% threshold. The project results add up to saving 6,056,130 gallons of water and $42,393 per year. Caltech is already looking into future project investments, such as low-flow faucets and toilets. It’s a great effort set in motion by a diverse team – all with unique functions but the same water saving mission.