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Water Conservation

Water Challenges Today

Like most of suburbia in the Midwest, the Chicago area urbanized in the last half of the 20th century by paving over farm lands which had once been prairies and drained wetlands, nature’s water treatment systems. Water is now managed and the land is impervious.

Today, drinking water is siphoned from the Great Lakes, mined from ancient aquifers, and to a much lesser extent, collected from runoff when it rains. The water levels of Lake Michigan and aquifers are in decline because much of the used water and runoff is not returned to the Lake or aquifers, it is transported after use to a watershed which includes the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. In effect, water from Lake Michigan is eventually being sent to the ocean and lost as freshwater forever.

Along the way, runoff collects excess fertilizer and pollutants. The force of the water erodes habitat, muddies the water and creates abnormal algae blooms. Algae in turn reduces oxygen in the water, kills fish and negatively impacts biodiversity along the Mississippi. Eventually, this excess fertilizer actually creates a great dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.


Image Credits: MaryBeth Radeck and Robert Scott Firszt

Water Conservation at Roosevelt University

Roosevelt University is addressing water use issues of today at the Chicago and Schaumburg campuses by utilizing rain gardens, a detention basin, roof top gardens, low flow plumbing, water-efficient and water pollution reduction technology in classrooms and now drip irrigation.

There’s a history of water conservation at Roosevelt. The Schaumburg campus emulates the sustainability of Schaumburg’s original prairie and wetlands landscape. Roosevelt replaced nine acres of impermeable, water-consumptive lawn with native prairie grasses, rain garden and a retention pond.

And in 2013, a five-year permeable paver replacement project began, allowing improved water infiltration and reduced runoff.

Water conservation is standard practice across Roosevelt University departments and campus buildings:

  • 8,000 square feet of green roofs capture rain and pollutants their plantings transpire moisture back to the atmosphere, reducing runoff and pollution at the ground level

  • LEED Gold Wabash building saves more than 20% potable water than Chicago code allows through use of aerators, low-flow pumping and plumbing fixtures

  • Food Services saves 50% water and energy use though use of Energy Star rated rinse technology

  • LEED Silver Goodman Center field house saves more than 30% potable water than required by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992

  • The Department of Biological, Chemical and Physical Sciences and College of Pharmacy replaced wasteful and polluting distillation systems with Millipore water purification systems eliminating harmful chemicals in water and saving energy