Water Conservation on Campus

Each year, CSU staff members identify and execute numerous water conservation projects throughout CSU buildings. Projects include replacing fixtures such as sinks and toilets with low-flow or ultra low-flow fixtures, converting once-through cooling systems to closed-loop systems, and replacing wash-down equipment with low-flow devices where possible. We work with City staff to evaluate usage and define conservation projects, often with the benefit of financial rebates to CSU from the City of Fort Collins.


CSU irrigates more than 230 acres of grass and landscaping on its campuses in Larimer County; almost all irrigation uses untreated raw water that is stored in a lake on CSU’s Foothills Campus. Our irrigation operations include College Lake, a pumping station, a passive mechanical filter system, a four-mile long 14-inch diameter transmission pipe, control systems, sensors, and a staff of system operators and technicians. CSU uses approximately 3 million gallons of raw water for irrigation each year.

Why is it environmentally beneficial to irrigate with raw water?

Because raw water does not have to be treated to drinking water standards, which requires a large amount of energy and chemicals. Therefore the carbon footprint of raw water, the emissions from energy consumption, chemical manufacture and transportation, is a fraction of that of treated water.

What else is CSU doing to reduce irrigation needs?

CSU landscape architects and planners steer towards native plantings and xeric outdoor environments wherever possible and where it makes sense. For example most of the landscaped areas on Foothills campus incorporate native grasses and shrubs which require less irrigation than sod. You will see examples of this when you visit the atmospheric science buildings complex on Foothills Campus.


Graywater has been a topic of conversation and research at CSU since 2007 when a pilot graywater collection and wetland treatment system was first constructed at the Foothills campus. Since that time, a full-scale system for graywater collection, treatment and reuse for toilet flushing was installed at one residence hall, and CSU Environmental Engineering professor, Dr. Sybil Sharvelle, has advanced the science of graywater treatment and reuse. She has been instrumental in helping to develop regulations and policies in Colorado and across the US with her graywater research, students’ theses, and expertise.


Best Management Practices, or BMPs, are practices that work to reduce water pollution. This is important because the stormwater system at CSU directly drains into the Poudre River and Spring Creek. During the last ten years, CSU has constructed dozens of stormwater treatment features including rain gardens, bioswales, constructed wetlands, permeable pavement, and a green roof. The following are measures and practices in place that are aimed at minimizing stormwater pollution on campus:

  • Storage Practices
    • Covered bulk de-icing chemicals
    • Covered storage of asphalt and other street maintenance materials
    • Storage of mulch and compost away from drainages and in areas with vegetated buffers
    • Indoor storage and proper handling of hazardous wastes
    • Indoor storage of chemical-containing equipment at our Surplus site
    • Monthly inspections of oil storage containers
  • Cleaning Practices
    • No outdoor vehicle washing
    • Vacuuming of concrete saw-cutting and gutter cleaning wash-water, with disposal in sanitary sewer
    • Prompt spill response and remediation
    • Prompt dry cleanup of residues after outdoor fire extinguisher training
    • Use of absorbent for drips at fuel dispenser locations, with personal training
    • Prompt trash and recyclables cleanup after events
    • Diversion of stadium bleacher and concourse cleaning water to sanitary sewer during cleaning
  • Maintenance and Usage Practices
    • Minimizing use of de-icing chemicals 
    • Piling of cleared snow on vegetated areas or near BMPs
    • Use of thermoplastic street markings in lieu of paint
    • Retention pond for windrow composting runoff collection
    • Use of biological pest controls in lieu of chemicals where practicable
    • Routine maintenance of gutters, catch basins and storm sewers
    • Routine soil nutrient evaluation to optimize fertilizer application amounts
    • Requirement to include BMPs with new or redeveloped projects
    • Annual inspection of at least 30 BMPs
    • Prompt BMP maintenance when needed
    • Personnel training and use of absorbent for drips at fuel dispenser area
    • Indoor maintenance and cleaning of buses, trucks and heavy equipment
    • Personnel training and dry cleaning of docks
    • Routine training sessions on stormwater pollution prevention

More information on CSU’s goals, measures, and actions to minimize stormwater pollution can be found on the
Facilities Management website: