Water Action Plan

UBC has developed a new Water Action Plan (2019) to build on our water conservation achievements to date and guide our water management activities in the future.

Download the Water Action Plan 


At UBC we enjoy a relatively large amount of water due to high levels of rainfall. However, with seasonal rainfall patterns and limited storage available in reservoirs, there are periods when water reservoir levels run low and water use must be restricted.

As a large, research-intensive university, UBC consumes a significant amount of water – about 3.6 billion litres per year – or enough to fill 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. However, this water consumption reflects reductions of about 50% since 2000 because:

  • Retrofit projects to buildings and infrastructure have increased water use efficiency
  • New green buildings are more water efficient, and
  • Shutting down the campus steam plant and converting the Academic District Energy System from steam to hot water saves 272 million litres of water per year.

However, without further action on water conservation, consumption will rise in the future due to growth of the campus.

The Water Action Plan

The vision behind the Water Action Plan is to manage water use responsibly by advancing water conservation and efficiency practices; encouraging innovative, alternative water system solutions; and building water supply resiliency.

Our plan addresses topics including:

  • Metering and reporting
  • Landscape and irrigation
  • Alternative water sources
  • Drinking water
  • Campus engagement.

The Water Action Plan also lays out a detailed Implementation Strategy and performance metrics.

Goals of the Plan

The Water Action Plan has six goals, which are:

Cascading water feature
Cascading water feature along University Boulevard
  1. Support UBC in meeting regional water management expectations.
  2. Reduce UBC’s water consumption and water costs.
  3. Contribute to community water supply resiliency, considering future climate conditions.
  4. Mitigate climate impacts through reducing energy consumption & GHG emissions associated with water use.
  5. Strengthen UBC’s sustainability profile and help build a culture of sustainability on campus through engagement.
  6. Create teaching, learning and research opportunities wherever possible.


The Water Action Plan has one major target, which is:

Maintain UBC total water consumption at or below 2017 levels despite anticipated growth.

Assuming a campus growth rate of approximately 2% per year, this target translates to a decrease in campus water use intensity* relative to 2017, and:

  • 16% decrease in water use intensity by 2025
  • 24% decrease in water use intensity by 2030

*Since water use is linked more strongly to people than floor space, water use intensity is defined here as the amount of water used per unit of population, currently indicated by Full Time Equivalent (FTE) student enrollment.


Learn More about the Water Action Plan Implementation Strategy and performance metrics.


For other questions contact Sustainability + Engineering, Campus + Community Planning.