“Each Gallon Saved Keeps More Water in Our Rivers and Lakes for Fish and Wildlife.” -Seattle Public Utilities.

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See the data and trends in UW's water usage.

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Seattle's water comes from pristine lakes and rivers. Seattle Public Utilities manages these resources to support fish and wildlife as well as humans. The UW has used conservation measures and efficient buildings to lower our water usage. However, we recognize the need to consistently track and measure water consumption consistently across our campuses. As of 2024, the UW is planning a water audit which will allow us to refresh and refine our water conservation efforts.

picture of a lake with mountains in the background
Cedar River Watershed, credit: City of Seattle

How water is consumed

The most recent audit of UW's water use was a 1997 water conservation study.

The study estimated where we consumed water:

  • 81% in buildings
  • 8.3% in the power plant
  • 6.8% in refrigeration equipment
  • 2.8% for irrigation
  • 1.1% in stills and other equipment

And what areas consumed the water:

  • 29.5%: Science
  • 25.5%: Health Science
  • 14.8%: Residence Halls
  • 13%: Hospital
  • 10.7%: Office/classroom
  • 4.7%: Athletics
  • 1.8%: Libraries

What we're doing

Auditing our usage: The UW is planning a water usage audit, which will provide up-to-date information on where and how we use water, and allow us to take actions to further reduce our usage.

Using low-flow appliances: The UW has upgraded many buildings with newer water-saving appliances such as toilets and sinks, and new buildings are designed to conserve water. HFS residence halls use high-efficiency shower heads and toilets.

Re-using rainwater: Several buildings collect rainwater for reuse, such as the Population Health Building which has cisterns to collect rainwater that is used to flush toilets. The Mercer Court residence hall also collects rainwater for use in the laundry facilities. Many other buildings utilize bioswales, or rain gardens, to naturally filter debris and pollution.

Stormwater management: All three UW campuses are situated near natural bodies of water and have management programs to reduce the amount of pollutants discharged into the water system from stormwater. Learn more about the stormwater management programs on the Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses.

Student living lab projects: Students have utilized Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) grants to create innovative water conservation projects on the Seattle campus, including:

Research & Academics

The Center for Urban Waters housed at UW Tacoma is a highly collaborative university-led applied science program dedicated to finding globally-applicable solutions to urban water quality problems in the Pacific Northwest.

The Freshwater Initiative is an interdisciplinary group promoting innovative research in the water science and engineering communities to address complex freshwater issues both locally and around the globe.

Researchers in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences investigate how toxins and pathogens in water affect the health of people and animals.

Data on UW's water usage