Michael Curran, Head of Building Services, Energy and Utilities at University of Galway
University of Galway is one of the city’s obvious gems but also standing around the famous quadrangle is a sustainable success story. With a plan to reduce its water usage on campus by 10% by 2025 and raise awareness of water as a critical and limited resource among its 19,000 students and more than 2,500 staff, University of Galway is implementing an impressive sustainability strategy.
With the plan in its infancy a call from Uisce Éireann in 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time, explained Michael Curran, Head of Building Services, Energy and Utilities.
“At the time we were putting together the Sustainability Strategy and water is one of the key elements. Uisce Éireann’s Water Stewardship Programme marries perfectly with what we are trying to achieve.“
Michael’s predecessor had completed an extensive leak detection and repair programme with water usage per occupant on campus down 46% from 2007/2008 to 2017/2018 alone.
But the university wanted to go a step further and worked in partnership with Uisce Éireann to safeguard the precious supply while reducing its water costs.
With the support of the utility company, the campus’ water network which runs over 2.8km was mapped out, zoned and actions agreed on.
Then began the task of eliminating all unnecessary water usage on campus and utilising new technologies and methods to reduce water consumption in the university’s laboratories and research buildings.
“At University of Galway we are committed to the responsible use of our water resources because we recognise the economic and environmental cost of providing safe, clean drinking water and the need to safeguard the supply for the future“
Not only did the university provide training for its building maintenance team on how to install water meters and inspect the network but pipework was replaced, rainwater harvesting systems installed and water saving devices, including low flow taps and low flow shower heads, were fitted across the campus.
A focus was placed on the award-winning Alice Perry Engineering Building where a touch screen, providing information for students on the college’s water usage, was installed. It’s a gentle reminder to every passer-by to be mindful of their water use.
A number of campaigns to educate the university’s students and staff on the limited and critical resource were also initiated.
As part of its sustainability strategy the college also wants to eliminate the reliance of staff and students on single use plastics for water consumption and have installed several water fountains throughout the campus.
It’s only when life returns to normal after COVID-19 that university management will be able to determine how much water the efforts of all have saved. But it’s worth nothing that in 2019 the university used 29 Olympic size swimming pools of water compared to 12 so far this year.
University of Galway's strategy is not only benefiting the university but the entire city. Students are walking out of the campus every evening reminded of the need to conserve water and protect the precious resource for the next generation.
“Sustainability and water reduction are important issues for students; we have seen the evidence of that firsthand.“
Not only has he taken Uisce Éireann’s Water Stewardship Programme under University of Galway’s wing, but he’s presented the benefits of the programme to university leaders across the country.
“The programme is well structured, and we were very happy to take part in it. We’re conserving water and reducing our water bills.“