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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Report card: UA a ‘C+’ in sustainability

    If environmentalism was a class, and the UA were a student, the university’s current report card would be embarrassing.

    The campus recently received a “”C+”” for environmental sustainability in the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s College Sustainability Report Card 2008.

    “”Whether it’s a ‘C+’ or a ‘B,’ it’s just not an ‘A,’ and there’s a lot we can do to move toward improvement,”” said Sharon Megdal, director of the UA’s Water Resources Research Center.

    For the

    We take energy conservation very seriously. People from all over the world come here to see our power plants and conservation efforts.

    -Al Tarcola,
    Facilities Management director

    report card, released two weeks ago, the institute graded 200 universities on eight criteria: administration,
    climate change and energy, food ad recycling, green building, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement.

    The UA did best in transportation and investment priorities, receiving an “”A”” in both categories, because transportation for Facilities Management includes hybrid vehicles or vehicles using E85 ethanol fuel and the university offers carpooling discounts and manages high-security bike lanes and bike parking spaces.

    The UA received a “”C”” on green building initiatives and a “”C”” on climate change and energy efforts, which include renewable energy investments like the solar panels on the Visitor Center.

    The report card did not explore an area in which the UA is making great progress: water conservation.

    Four the university’s innovative water practices include waterless urinals, water harvesting, water reclamation and thermal ice storage.

    The waterless urinals are located in the University Services Annex building, Arizona Stadium and the Science and Engineering library.

    Each urinal saves 40,000 gallons of water per year, and can save up to 18,000 during a single football game, said Mark Marikos, a Facilities Management technician.

    The two models currently in use are urinals with either a one-way valve that drains the urine, or urinals containing an oil-based liquid that traps the fumes and allows the urine to float below the oil down the pipeline, Marikos said.

    Water harvesting has been another successful water conservation effort on campus, with projects located at the Visitor Center, the Robson Tennis Center, behind the Family and Consumer Sciences building and in the grassy valley near Campus Health Service.

    Water harvesting on campus is built either around a passive or an active model, Megdel said.

    Currently, the Visitor Center is the only active model, through which water is collected and stored in a cistern that releases water as needed for irrigation.

    All other campus models divert rainwater or collect rainwater in low-lying areas for plants to absorb.

    “”The Visitor’s Center is an important step, but you need to look at the changes on campus collectively,”” said James Riley, a soil, water and environmental science professor who worked with a group of students to implement the new rainwater cistern.

    Perhaps an even larger conservation measure on campus is the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and evaporative cooling.

    Reclaimed water is delivered through a separate system of more than 100 miles of pipeline and reservoirs.

    This, in combination with other Facilities Management programs, saves 8.4 million gallons of water a year, according to the Facilities Management Web site.

    The department’s grandest project, however, is its thermal cooling center.

    “”I’d say we should have the rating of either ‘A’ or ‘A-‘ for what we’ve done,”” said Al Tarcola, Facilities Management director. “”We have the largest thermal ice-storage plant in the United States right here. No campus in this country has the thermal ice-storage plant that we do.””

    UA’s thermal cooling plant runs water over ice during the evening, when energy costs are lower, to produce cold water.

    Tarcola estimates energy savings at near $90 million over the past four years.

    “”We take energy conservation very seriously,”” he said. “”People from all over the world come here to see our power plants and conservation efforts.””

    Despite the mediocre reviews, UA professors are proud of the work they’ve done in making the UA a more environmentally friendly campus.

    “”The university is planning to do a better job,”” Megdal said. “”I think we’re moving in the right direction.””

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