Water Conservation

Lab equipment that uses “once-through” cold water for cooling is one of the largest types of water use on campus

UBC’s commitment to sustainability includes a reduction in water consumption as a key method of minimizing the environmental impact of UBC. Most laboratory buildings use about 40% more water than standard commercial or institutional buildings. UBC’s water costs are significant and are currently increasing at a rate of about 7% per year. Use of hot water also entails energy consumption, with associated greenhouse gas emissions and costs. Researchers can play an important role in achieving more sustainable water use.

Get started

Conduct a water conservation survey for your lab. The survey will calculate your lab’s annual water use and will help you identify which processes use the most water in your lab. Review the water conservation survey instructions & method for determining flow rate.

Best practices

The best sustainability solutions are those that reduce both water consumption, and do not add significantly to the peak electricity demand. Peak electricity demand typically occurs on weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., during the coldest and warmest times of the year. Scheduling equipment use outside these hours is preferred.

  • Use closed-loop water re-circulation equipment in all of your cooling systems.
  • Avoid the use of open-loop faucet water to draw vacuum for distillation units and filtration processes; use vacuum pumps instead. Note that continuous low-flow cold water distillers use 300 liters/hr.
  • Report leaky faucets to building maintenance.
  • Minimize the use of distillation to purify water (some uses need distillation, but for minor uses it’s better to purchase).
  • Consider using water substitutes such as Bath Armor™ Beads, which can replace water in water baths, aluminum blocks in dry baths, or ice in ice buckets. This would result in both water and cost savings for your lab.
  • Turn off equipment that uses water when not in use, or use timers.
  • Run dishwashers only when full.
  • Refer to the Green Products List for relevant green products.
  • Help educate research colleagues on lab water conservation, and work together to develop water efficient solutions.

Retrofit open-loop water systems

If your lab has open-loop water systems – e.g., once-through water used for cooling or vacuum (aspirators or distillation), providing the greatest opportunity for reducing water consumption. Open loop systems can be retrofitted to dramatically reduce water consumption. Learn more in the Open Loop Water use document.

  • Install Aerators for taps in your lab – Faucet aerators are sink attachments that reduce water flow. Installing efficient faucet aerators is a simple and inexpensive way to reduce water consumption in the lab, without sacrificing lab productivity. To estimate water savings from installing faucet aerators, the flow rate before implementation and after implementation should be calculated, or water meters may be installed. Efficient (recommended) faucet aerators have a flow rate of 9.5 liters/minute.

Want to learn more?

  • Take a tour of the Virtual Green Lab to learn more about water conservation in the lab.
  • Read about the UBC Water Action Plan to learn about water consumption initiatives and water management innovation techniques at UBC.