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03/16/2011 07:00:00

Water, Water (Not) Everywhere: Pasadena's Upcoming Water Shortage

A major seismic retrofit to a pipeline that delivers as much as 60 percent of Pasadena's water will require a citywide reduction in water use from Friday, March 18, through Sunday, March 27. To that end, the City of Pasadena has declared a Level 4 Water Shortage Emergency during that time, and will enforce a complete ban on outdoor watering.

"As Pasadena's largest utility customer, Caltech has a responsibility to conserve water during this shutdown," says John Onderdonk, Caltech's manager for sustainability programs.

What steps will the campus take? In addition to shutting off all landscape irrigation systems, Onderdonk says, Caltech will take a series of other measures:

  • There will be no replenishing of ponds and other water features on campus.
  • Pools will not be backwashed, a process of cleaning a pool's filter by reversing the flow of water.
  • Cooling tower operations will be optimized to reduce evaporative losses.
  • Reduce water use in labs when and wherever possible.
  • Set points on the campus cooling towers, reverse osmosis tanks, and deionization tanks will be raised in advance of the shortage, to provide for a few hours of operation should a complete water shutdown become necessary.

If you live as well as work in Pasadena, there are other ways you can contribute:

  • Limit showers to five minutes.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or soaping up your hands.
  • Lay off the laundry (or at least wash only full loads).
  • Don't flush trash down the toilet.

Onderdonk says the campus can and should look at this as a challenge rather than a hardship. "This shutdown offers an opportunity to measure the effects of various water conservation measures to help inform Caltech's sustainability goals and emergency response procedures should we face an unplanned water shortage," he notes.

Want to keep up with how we're doing? Check the daily updates on the campus's performance in the "Water Conservation Update" box that will appear on Caltech Today beginning on Monday. 

Written by Lori Oliwenstein