Since hitting its all-time recorded high of nearly 157.4 million gallons in 1998, Eastern Illinois University has cut water usage by almost 80 million gallons per year. The university paid around a penny per gallon last year — meaning it could've theoretically paid an extra $800,000 at the going rate. Water rates obviously fluctuate for various reasons, but there’s little doubt the university is saving money and doing the environment a sizable favor in the process.
Some of this water conservation has been through simple equipment upgrades that were part of Eastern’s second performance contract in 2001. That included replacement of toilets, faucet aerators, showerheads, dishwashers and washing machines with water-conserving fixtures. The filter at Ray Padovan Pool received a similar water-saving upgrade, a more efficient design that discharges less water into the sewer.
Nine to 10 million gallons of these savings are realized through advances in chemical treatment of cooling water. In the past, water used for cooling processes at EIU could be used twice before discharge became necessary. With the chemical treatment program now in place, it can go through the process 18 times or more.
In 2010, EIU began utilizing the campus pond for some of its water needs. The pond is surrounded by athletic fields, and these fields require a great deal of water to maintain the turf. Rather than using potable water to irrigate these fields, water from the pond is meeting the need. This practice will save the chemicals and much of the power required to generate the 1.5 million gallons of potable water Eastern would've used for this purpose.
Last but not least is Eastern’s ever-expanding chilled water loop, which was part of the university’s initial 1995 performance contract. Before this loop came into existence, every building had its own air conditioning unit. While cooling equipment works best when it’s near its maximum capacity, these individual units rarely reached that status.
With this shared circuit, however, one piece of equipment can be used to cool several buildings. Another one doesn’t need to be turned on until the first one is running at its maximum. Water is currently piped underground, and a number of buildings are part of the loop. It started with Booth Library, Buzzard Hall, the Life Sciences building and the Doudna Fine Arts Center in 1995.
In 1999, Lantz Arena, Stevenson Hall, Lincoln Hall, and Douglas Hall were added to the loop. During the second performance contract in 2001, a southern loop connected Klehm Hall, Coleman Hall, Thomas Hall, Andrews Hall, Taylor Hall and Lawson Hall. A 2002 extension included the Physical Sciences building, McAfee Gymnasium and the MLK Jr. Union.
More recently, these chilled water loops were upgraded to a supply/return configuration and pressure-independent control valves were installed. Lumpkin Hall was added to the system, and the loops were also connected.