Reduce Water Usage

Faucet with dripping water


Reduce water consumption both campus-wide and per person.


Campus water usage (gallons x 1,000,000)

water usage graph
  • Baseline
  • Current Performance
  • Future Targets

Global Context, Local Action

By 2025 an estimated 1.8 billion people will live in areas of extreme water scarcity.1 The vast majority — 70 percent — of global water usage is tied to agriculture, so food consumption choices alone have far-reaching impact.2 Farming is also among the top users of water in the United States, along with electricity production and domestic consumption.3

In the Northeast of the United States, many higher education institutions have reduced water consumption.4 Counter to that regional progress, however, water usage at Princeton has increased over the past decade.

Short and Long Term Objectives

Using 2008 as our baseline year, our objective is to reduce per-person and campus-wide consumption, irrespective of institutional growth. Our target is to reduce annual campus water usage by 26 percent by 2046. We will emphasize the conservation of potable water in energy systems and domestic usage, and use reclaimed and rain water in its place where appropriate.

We also aim to use the campus environment to build a sense of connection between our everyday choices and water, as well as other natural resources, so that we encourage mindful consumption as a lifelong habit.

Princeton’s Progress To Date

For more than a decade, Princeton has taken significant steps to reduce water usage on campus through conservation at the central plant, implementing tray-free dining in all dining halls, athletic and landscape management practices and installing low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency washing machines and dishwashers. As of 2021, campus water usage has decreased 15 percent since 2008, despite growth in the campus population and built space, which requires more water for heating and cooling.

field hockey stadium

In 2012, the University installed a novel new playing surface for field hockey at Bedford Field. The specialized artificial turf absorbs and holds water for longer than standard artificial turf, extending ideal playing conditions. The system can produce the required conditions using only 2,000 gallons of water, compared to as much as 12,000 gallons used previously.

Princeton Campus Dining has made significant progress in addressing off-campus water usage through its commitment to health and sustainability. The Princeton Crafted Burger, a part beef, part plant based entree introduced in 2016 reduced the red meat in each patty by 40 percent, compared to an all beef burger. Given the high water use footprint of beef compared to plant-based options, this reduction demonstrates meaningful, scalable action toward curtailing water scarcity in the world.

Campus Water Usage

water usage graph

Campus Action Items

  • Reduce water usage at Princeton’s central plant, the single top water user on campus, by converting to more sustainable energy infrastructure over time.
  • Continue to assess and implement water-conserving landscape practices, plumbing fixtures and building systems, and engage users in maximizing their effectiveness.
  • Standardize installation of dual piping in new buildings and major renovations where possible to facilitate use of reclaimed water and harvested rainwater for toilets.
  • Install additional water metering and sub-metering to enable better performance tracking, including water usage associated with irrigation.
  • Continue to evaluate the feasibility of reclaimed wastewater technologies.
  • Align campus water conservation targets across key water-using departments and activities, and continue to assess indirect water usage associated with campus procurement activities.
  • Advance evidence-based solutions that reduce our water use by encouraging students, faculty and staff to use the campus as a living lab.
  • Reinforce Princeton’s water-reduction targets during key planning efforts, including campus design and development activities, establishment of landscape management practices, and procurement practices.
  • Apply behavioral science approaches to promote widespread adoption of mindful water use behaviors, including through programs and building design.
  • Scale action beyond Princeton through advocacy that encourages local and state-wide water conservation.
Scales of Impact - You/Campus

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