Burbank Unified Switches to Reclaimed Water for Irrigation
- By Dian Schaffhauser
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
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.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.