The University of Alberta sits above the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, one of this province’s great waterways and transportation corridors. The university takes its stewardship over water resources very seriously, and has been steadily improving the water efficiency of its operations for several decades.


  1. Various initiatives have reduced water consumption by 6 per cent per square metre since 1975, even though the building area has increased by 39 per cent.
  2. Each building on campus is metered and consumption of water is measured on a monthly basis.
  3. Innovative water saving facilities are featured in the university’s newest green buildings, including Triffo Hall and the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science
  4. The university incorporates xeriscaping principles in landscape design and construction for more water efficient grounds keeping.

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Newer buildings at the University of Alberta have been designed with sustainability features a priority. Water-efficiency features include motion sensors on water taps and low-flow fixtures. For instance, Triffo Hall, the university’s first LEED® Gold certified building, has waterless urinals in the washrooms. All campus residences have been retrofitted with flow restrictors in the showers. Residence toilets have water dams installed, and are in the process of being replaced with low flush models.

Water is saved for use in the maintenance of grounds and gardens in the summer months. Flower planters across North Campus use reservoirs to conserve water and develop stronger, stress-resistant root systems. Rainwater from Triffo Hall’s roof is collected in a below-ground storage system and used for toilet flushing and irrigation. A cistern near the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science recovers 25,000 gallons of treated water that would otherwise be lost when testing the fire-retardant sprinkler system. 

State of the art cleaning equipment is used throughout the university. This technology requires 33 per cent less water than traditional techniques, saving between 60–70 thousand gallons of water per year.


The ground-breaking scientific research taking place at the University of Alberta often requires heavy water use. Improvements to the efficiency of science laboratories can account for significant progress in the university’s water efficiency goals. The university has upgraded the chilled water distribution systems within many buildings, reducing instances of domestic water being used for cooling research equipment. Vacuum pumps in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science use compressed air instead of water.


Many options are available to the university’s groundskeepers when it comes to water efficiency. Xeriscaping principles are used in landscape design and construction, bringing lessons from the desert to produce a more water efficient landscape.

On Augustana Campus, a 1,500 gallon storm holding tank helps reduce run-off, decrease erosion, increase infiltration, as well as conserve and reuse water. Water from this tank is also used to water plants and trees across campus.

What You Can Do

The efforts of everyone at the University of Alberta—students, faculty and staff—are crucial to creating a sustainable campus. There are many ways you can help protect our water on campus.

Personal Actions

  • Take shorter showers
  • Keep my drinking water in the fridge
  • Only run the washing machine and dishwasher with full loads
  • Turn off the tap while brushing teeth
  • Check taps and toilets for leaks and report them to maintenance by calling maintenance at 780-492-4833

What You Can Do

Did You Know?

The university's cooling plant on the North Saskatchewan River uses "free cooling mode" in Winter. Normally electricity-driven compressors are used for chilling. But in Winter, the naturally cold river water is used instead. River water is kept uncontaminated in a separate loop and it is returned at a safe temperature.

River running through forested valley

Get Involved

There are always programs available to help you engage with campus sustainability. Resources and ideas are only a click away.

Contact Us

Mike Versteege, Manager
Energy Management & Sustainable Operations