George Washington University unveils goals to reduce water footprint


George Washington University President Steven Knapp today announced goals to reduce the university’s water footprint and a new ambitious water sustainability plan that sets water conservation and quality goals based on a framework for an urban institution. During GW’s Earth Day fair, President Knapp laid out several aggressive goals, including plans to reduce the university’s bottled water direct expenditures by 50 percent over the next five years, increase permeable space by 10 percent in 10 years and decrease water consumption by 25 percent in 10 years.

“Our focus on the conservation and reclamation of water at George Washington is an important expression of our commitment to become a model of urban sustainability,” said President Knapp.

GW’s water footprint framework and sustainability plan, unique to the region and urban institutions, is one of the most comprehensive plans to address water consumption and quality. The university will review and update its water footprint and sustainability goals as new technologies, regulations or partnerships emerge.

“GW deserves recognition for its leadership in developing an innovative water sustainability plan,” said Mark Orlowski, founder and executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

By 2030, global demand for water is projected to exceed supply by 40 percent, according to a McKinsey & Company report. Locally, the Washington Metropolitan Area Water Supply Reliability Study predicts that by 2040 the current water supply system may have difficulty meeting the region’s demands during periods of drought without water restrictions or without developing additional supply resources. Additionally, a U.S. Geological Survey reports that pollution in the Potomac Watershed continues to be an issue due to bacteria, chemicals and metals found in the water due to runoff.

George Washington University’s new water footprint and sustainability strategy addresses four areas: potable water or water fit for human consumption; rainfall capture, the process of collecting and reusing rain water that falls on GW’s campuses; waste water; and bottled water.

Together with its stakeholders, including DC Water, Potomac Riverkeeper and GW faculty and staff, the university’s Office of Sustainability developed eight goals that focus on reducing water consumption and improving water quality, using new technologies and partnering with area groups to meet these goals. The goals are:
· Reduce potable water use by 25 percent over 10 years
· Reuse all retained storm water for grey water systems, cooling towers and irrigation by 2021
· Increase permeable space by 10 percent in 10 years
· Reduce pollutants going into the campus waste water system with the goal of zero pollution
· Reduce direct expenditures on bottled water by 50 percent over the next five years while providing new drinking options
· Partner with external groups to enhance dialogue on urban water issues

“Today GW is taking a leadership step. I hope that other universities and other large institutions who reside in the Potomac Watershed will disclose their water footprints too,” said Meghan Chapple-Brown, director of the Office of Sustainability. “After all, we’re all in this together.”

GW has already reduced its water use by nearly 40 million gallons over the past four years and will continue this trend by engaging the entire community in the water sustainability efforts. Students, faculty and staff who attended GW’s Earth Day Fair signed pledges to reduce their use of bottled water. The GW community also received tips on how they can contribute to reducing the university’s water footprint, including using reusable water bottles and paraben-free soaps, taking shorter showers, running the dishwasher and washing machine only when full and refraining from littering.

In the heart of the nation\’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.