Updated On October 6, 2017 - 4:28pm

Facilities Management (FM) Nears Completion on Award-Winning Water Reclamation System Expansion

As reported to the campus earlier this year, UCLA FM’s innovative water reclaim system was awarded the Water Efficiency Project of the Year by the Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge at its third annual Innovation Awards Ceremony in downtown Los Angeles on February 28, 2017.

The water reclaim system literally captures water out of thin air.   As a by-product of conditioning air for building cooling, air handlers generate a significant amount of condensation.  Ordinarily, this condensation is piped to the building drainage system and essentially lost.  The late Randy Cook, a long time FM employee widely respected for his superior mechanical systems expertise, first conceived of capturing this air handling condensing water rather than dumping it to drain.  Putting Randy’s ideas into action, FM’s Design, Project Management and Operations (DPMO) team researched the potential savings from capturing this water and quickly concluded that there was significant opportunity to capture not only condensing water from building air handlers, but also from laboratory sterilization equipment, water conditioning equipment and certain vacuum pumps used in laboratories. 

In 2015, the team began installing an extensive piping system that collects water from the various equipment into 100-gallon receiver tanks located within each building, and then moves it using gravity flow to a 63,000 gallon sump located in the Center for Health Sciences (CHS).  

Typical Reclaimed Water Receiver Tank

Typical Reclaimed Water Receiver Tank

One the water is collected at the sump, four sump tank pumps push it through the campus utility tunnels back to the Cogeneration Plant, where it is used as make-up water for the plant’s massive cooling towers.  

The Cogeneration Plant consumes 220 million gallons of water annually to produce two critical utilities for the campus:  chilled water for air conditioning and steam for heating and electrical generation.  Every gallon of water that can be captured and pumped back to the Cogeneration Plant reduces the amount of water the campus consumes, and of course, the amount of water we have to purchase from our municipal utility company, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).  

Sump Tank Pumps

Sump Tank Pumps

Phase 1 of the water reclaim project connected 22 UCLA buildings to the system and is savings 28 million gallons/year, or roughly 80,000 gallons/day on average.  On humid days, the system captures as much as 130,000 gallons/day.  Phase 2 of the project, which connects four more campus buildings (Engineering 4, Engineering 6, Math Sciences and Boelter Hall), has been underway since October 2016 and will be complete by the end of this month.  The expansion will save an additional 6.5 million gallons of water annually, or as much as 150,000 gallons on hot, humid days.  Reclaimed water yield is closely monitored in FM via a sump tank monitoring system connected to the campus direct digital controls network.

Sump Tank Monitoring System

Sump Tank Monitoring System

FM’s water reclaim system is one more example of the sustainable practices being pursued or implemented every day at UCLA!

Water Reclamation Men