by Jenny Gerow
drought has left the usually lush green Lawn worn and brown.
Making every drop count
By Matt Kelly
the area got more than 2 inches of rain as September drew to a
close, little fed the reservoirs because the ground absorbed it,
said Patrick J. Michaels, state climatologist and professor of
at the University.
was shocking how little of it moved into the system, Michaels
there is good news. There is less evaporation in the fall, Michaels
said, and some of the atmospheric conditions, such as high-pressure
systems that have kept rain away from Central Virginia, are passing.
He said that for rainfall to move into a more normal range again,
there should be 9 to 10 inches in the fall and 10 to 11 inches
in the winter.
plans saving water, energy and money
water-cooling towers may not be as glamorous as working
Cheryl Gomez, director of utilities for Facilities
Management, says she finds great satisfaction in the
changes she can effect from her office on Alderman Road.
mission is ensuring that we have reliable, efficient, cost-effective
resources for the University in support of its mission,
left a career in the aerospace industry when she accompanied
her husband, Ariel, now interim vice president for research
and graduate studies, to U.Va. in 1986. She took an hourly
wage position at Facilities Management, and her background
in mechanical engineering helped her rise quickly to her
present position, which she took in 1994.
she is facing a dual challenge: significantly reducing the
schools water usage, and doing so within a budget
already squeezed by state cuts.
[This] is the absolute worst time it could hit,
she said. There is cost associated with responding
to the drought right now. Extra labor is needed for
daily reconnaissance, to purchase and install low-flow adapters
on showers and sinks, and for extensive leak repairs on
expenditures are necessary despite frugal times.
we dont invest in water-saving measures, the city
will levy a significant surcharge on our water, explained
Colette Sheehy, vice president of management and budget.
She is considering a report from Gomez proposing more extensive
conservation measures. [Gomez] has been aggressive
and held this as a very high priority.
reductions were introduced in mid-September, and the University
recorded a 7 percent drop in consumption within two weeks.
Gomez credits the innovation and cooperation of her colleagues
in departments like Health System facilities, landscaping
and housing. But underlying the success is a decades
worth of work from the utilities group, which orchestrated
a 12 percent drop in water usage over five years.
in electricity have been even more profound. After rising
steadily during the 1980s, consumption leveled out in the
early 90s, staying flat or actually decreasing throughout
the decade. By turning the trend when they did, Gomez calculates
her department saved the University more than $4 million
in electric bills last year alone.
U.Va. has won at least one award every year since 1996 for
energy conservation work.
this opportunity to effect dramatic savings in resources
and finances that attracts Gomez to her work. And despite
the urgency of the drought, Gomez views the present crisis
with a positive eye.
Call me an optimist, but Im also hopeful that
people will make behavior changes, she said.
the past four years have seen a rainfall deficit of about 30 inches,
the 1990s still comprised the second wettest decade for the state
on record, he said. But at the same time, the local population
we go back to normal, there will still be more pressure on the
system, Michaels said. Clearly the conservation ethic
has to prevail for a long time.
Gomez, director of utilities, would like to see conservation efforts
made permanent. She said there will be long-term benefits from
low-flow toilets and shower heads and high-efficiency washing
researchers have changed their processes to conserve water, and
some are purchasing water recirculators for their work, Gomez
student-based recycling organization changed its name to Conservation
Advocates and is adding water and electricity conservation to
its efforts. Gomez has received a flood of water-saving suggestions
from students. Some students on the Lawn, concerned about its
condition, have suggested a Share a shower with a tree campaign,
capturing their bathing water in a pail and using it to water
plants. People have been tremendous, said Gomez. People
want to make a difference.
efforts are appearing to pay off. Daily water consumption in the
Rivanna watershed area has decreased from 10.5 million gallons
a day to 7.8 million gallons, Gomez said. Before Aug. 23, it was
said it shows that if everyone cuts his or her water consumption
a little bit, the cumulative effect is significant.