Green Schools

Burbank Unified Switches to Reclaimed Water for Irrigation

A southern California school district is gradually introducing the use of reclaimed water for irrigation as part of a $110 million capital projects and technology bond initiative. The Burbank Unified School District announced during a June board meeting that it had converted irrigations systems at eight new school sites, on top of schools where they already existed.

Replacing the reclaimed water with potable water would have used up about 26 million gallons, according to the company that worked with the district on the conversion project.

California's governor, Jerry Brown, put in place a drought state of emergency, urging residents voluntarily to reduce water usage by 20 percent. In May, the California Building Standards Commission approved requirements for new school construction that called for water efficiency in new exterior landscaped areas.

As part of Measure S, which required approval by at least 55 percent of registered voters, the district has been undertaking facilities upgrades at many of its schools for cost savings and conservation. For example, Luther Burbank Middle School is replacing its heating and air conditioning system for efficiency, installing solar parking shade structures, doing LED energy retrofits and converting irrigation systems to recycle water. To make sure the public understands that the water being used to irrigate fields and landscaping is recycled, the schools display signs with an explanation.

"As one of the largest water users in the city of Burbank, it is the district's responsibly to take a leadership role in reducing its use of this critical resource, not just during California's historic drought, but also well into the future," said Superintendent Jan Britz. "I am proud to be part of a community sending a message about the importance of environmental conservation and long-term sustainability."

Burbank is working with OpTerra Energy Services, which is doing the infrastructure upgrades under a guarantee of savings, which can then be used to finance the improvements as part of the long-term sustainability program. If the savings aren't reached for a certain number of years, OpTerra makes up the difference. In other districts where OpTerra has worked, such as South San Francisco Unified and Fountain Valley School District in Arizona, schools have added curriculum about sustainability efforts on campus to turn them into learning opportunities for the students.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.