The University of Idaho is located in the Palouse Basin of northern Idaho. Like the surrounding entities of Moscow, Pullman, Colfax, and Palouse, and Washington State University; U of I receives all of its water from the Grande Ronde and Wanapum aquifers and water levels have been declining steadily since 1967. To minimize the need to pump water from the aquifer, U of I is always seeking ways to reduce water consumption. Water savings initiatives and a reclaimed water system have been very successful, and as of 2019, U of I accounts for only 6% of the total gallons pumped from the aquifers compared to the other users.
Domestic Water Saving Initiatives
- Water-cooled equipment uses chilled water from the central chilled water system instead of domestic water when possible. This eliminates the need to pump more water from the aquifer.
- Shallow aquifer wells are now used in the West Farm aquaculture research to reduce the usage of deep aquifer well water
- Water saving flush valves, showerheads, and faucets have been retrofitted and are part of our design standards for new construction
Reclaimed Water Irrigation System
The University of Idaho irrigates over 150 acres of campus with reclaimed water, saving up to 100 million gallons per year from the deep aquifer. The university expects to reduce the areas irrigated with domestic water use by 50% in the next 5-10 years; however, some areas of campus, such as those around housing units, must be irrigated with domestic water due to state and federal guidelines. Because of this, reclaimed water cannot replace domestic water completely for irrigation.
In the last few years, the university has added 45 acres of automated irrigation systems, the majority of which is on the reclaimed water system. Automated irrigation reduces water use over hand watering by an estimated 50%. Automated irrigation systems can be operated at night as well, significantly decreasing water lost to evaporation.