Oct. 11-24, 2002
Back Issues

‘Genius Grant’ winner to speak at Convocation
Family Weekend packed with activities
If you “cannot live without books”
U.Va. changes banks
Town-gown solutions forum
Faculty invited to minority career day talk
Board establishes professorships
Board names buildings
G’day, art lovers
Virginia gets ‘B’ in nat’l report
See with a writer’s eye
For he’s a jolly good fellow
Benefits open enrollment
Another bridge over technology divide
Back to his roots
‘Brain Food:’ Students serve up a most excellent lunch
Who’s minding grandma?
Your right to safety
Hot Link: Faculty experts guide
Exhibits highlight Chinese, European art
College goes to ‘Net for advising, registration processes
New INS rules snare international students
‘The Secret Museum’ to explore pornography
Non-profit fair set for Nov. 13
Student-faculty dinners begin Oct. 17
Michelango‘s art explored on Oct. 24
In Memoriam

Budget cuts implemented
Biggest gift ever
Digest/Daily news about U.Va.
Headlines @ U.Va.

Making every drop count

LBT group offers compromise
15th annual Virginia Festival of Film
A voice for Africa
To our readers -- redesign of IUVA print version
Wylie’s ‘Stillwater’ runs through Oct. 27
Basketball ticket lottery
‘Waltzing the Reaper’
Infrastructure not glamorous but a vital part of bond package
Photo by Jenny Gerow
The drought has left the usually lush green Lawn worn and brown.

Making every drop count

By Matt Kelly

While 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 environmental sciences at the University.

“It was shocking how little of it moved into the system,” Michaels said.

But 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.

Cheryl GomezGomez’s plans saving water, energy and money

By Elizabeth Kiem

Monitoring water-cooling towers may not be as glamorous as working on satellites.

But 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.

“My mission is ensuring that we have reliable, efficient, cost-effective resources for the University in support of its mission,” she said.

Gomez 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.

Now she is facing a dual challenge: significantly reducing the school’s 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 underground piping.

The expenditures are necessary despite frugal times.

“If we don’t 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.”

Stringent 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 decade’s worth of work from the utilities group, which orchestrated a 12 percent drop in water usage over five years.

Savings 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.

It’s 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 I’m also hopeful that people will make behavior changes,” she said.

Though 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 expanded.

“When 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.”

Cheryl 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 machines.

Some researchers have changed their processes to conserve water, and some are purchasing water recirculators for their work, Gomez said.

A 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.”

The 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 13.2 million.

She said it shows that if everyone cuts his or her water consumption a little bit, the cumulative effect is significant.



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