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Cuesta College cuts water use by 44 percent

A group of Cuesta College sculpture students created a 6-foot-tall sphere out of wooden sticks and debris and installed it at the San Luis Obispo campus in 2015 to bring awareness to the California drought.
A group of Cuesta College sculpture students created a 6-foot-tall sphere out of wooden sticks and debris and installed it at the San Luis Obispo campus in 2015 to bring awareness to the California drought.

Cuesta College cut its water use by 44.2 percent in 2015, far above Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory 25 percent reduction, in part by removing lawns or giving them less water.

Community college officials said water use on the Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo campuses dropped significantly from 2013 to 2015, saving more than 18 million gallons of water, according to Chris Green, the college’s interim vice president of administrative services.

The college is under the same state mandate as many California communities and cities to cut water use by 25 percent as compared to its 2013 usage.

Cuesta used 72.27 acre-feet of water in 2015, compared with 129.53 acre-feet in 2013. An acre-foot of water is equal to about 325,851 gallons.

In 2014, the college used 98.5 acre-feet of water, Green said.

“The landscaping changes had been in the works for some time. All landscaping has been impacted in some way,” Terry Reece, director of facilities services planning and capital projects, said in a news release.

Some lawns were completely eliminated, while others were put in a stressed condition from reducing watering. Some areas were replaced with wood bark; others will have drought-resistant plants installed, Reece told The Tribune in May.

In addition, Cuesta is in the process of replacing 120 toilets and 34 urinals with low-flow versions. An air-cooled chiller was installed on the North County campus, which will dramatically reduce the use of a larger water-cooled chiller.

Over the summer, the college closed its small 60,000-gallon pool for emergency safety repairs to the pool lining. Green noted Friday that the college saved water last year, even though that pool was refilled.

A major repair job to the 50-meter lap pool, which holds 650,000 gallons, is taking place this winter, with a comprehensive project to include new gutters, lights and liners. Green said the pool was drained in December and will be refilled once repairs are complete.

Cuesta’s North County campus receives water from the city of Paso Robles. The San Luis Obispo campus relies solely on state water and has been allocated the same amount — about 130 acre-feet a year — since the early 1970s, even as enrollment has grown from about 3,000 to about 10,000 students, Reece said.

Cuesta pays an annual set fee for its water allowance from the state, so the college won’t save money by cutting its water use on the San Luis Obispo campus.

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO

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