Campuswide Opportunities for Water Conservation
As part of its commitment to conserving water, Caltech has converted nearly a quarter of its campus to drought-tolerant landscaping and instituted systems to reclaim condensate from building air-conditioning systems to refill reflecting pools.
California native plants and other drought-tolerant plants cover 17 percent of campus, up from 4 percent in 2012. Low-water landscaping has increased 350 percent since 2012. In 2021, Caltech replaced another 19,000 square feet of turf, saving more than 380,000 gallons of water per year. Irrigation accounted for just 12 percent of Caltech's water use in 2021.
Measures to save water in irrigation and the utility plants were offset by domestic consumption increases. The return of the community to campus and the opening of a new research building account for some of the 17 percent increase in water consumption between 2019 and 2021. Consumption inside buildings accounted for 34 percent of water use on campus in 2021.
In 2022, Caltech replaced its aging cooling towers at the central utility plant on Wilson Avenue south of California Boulevard. The upgrade, which was focused on energy conservation, noise reduction, and safety, will lead to water savings too. The new towers can reuse water 50 percent longer than typical plants. That matters, given that the utility plants accounted for 54 percent of the water used on campus in 2021.
An Urban Forest
Caltech arborists safeguard the health of the 3,400 trees on Caltech's campus, protecting their environmental and ecological contributions. During construction, mature trees may be moved; when they have to be removed entirely, new ones are planted nearby.