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Community Notebook: Ten to be honored for water conservation efforts

Stanford University student, Palo Alto school district among 'water conservation champions'

The Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards, which recognizes government agencies, businesses, organizations and individuals for their water conservation efforts, have announced the winners of this year's awards, according to a press release.

The 10 winners include Palo Alto Unified School District; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Stanford University student Andrew Jacobs; the City of Menlo Park; the City of South San Francisco; Bay Maples Wild California Gardens; zNano, water-softening equipment supplier; ZunZun, a performing arts group; Elias Nacif, of janitorial and maintenance provider Service by Medallion; and longtime water champion Trish Mulvey.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is being honored for its efforts to capture and reuse water. The lab collects rainwater around electrical equipment, storage tanks and other structures, processes the water through a non-hazardous water treatment unit and then reuses it in cooling operations. Clean waterwaste from construction projects and pipe testing are also collected and filtered for use in cooling towers or for landscape irrigation, the press release states.

The Palo Alto school district is being lauded for launching a program to convert non-athletic irrigated turf grass to native plant gardens and natural meadow areas. By doing so, the school district has removed more than 20,000 square feet of turf from six schools (the district is planning to expand the program to its remaining sites), and through matching rebate programs from the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the City of Palo Alto Utilities, the turf conversions have generated more than $42,000 in water-saving rebates, according to the press release.

The school district also performed water-use surveys at all of its schools and retrofitted or replaced hundreds of fixtures, such as toilets, urinals, showerheads, aerators and irrigation hardware, for maximum water-use efficiency. Using 2013 as a baseline for comparison, the school district has reduced its water consumption by 29 percent, the press release noted.

Stanford senior Andrew Jacobs' water conservation efforts include helping develop an app where people can notify the appropriate party on campus of shower leaks and other water waste, facilitating the installation of a 1,500-gallon rainwater harvesting system and drip irrigation at Synergy House, a cooperative with an extensive garden network, and leading the charge to get a water bottle filling station installed in Stanford's Old Union to reduce the use of plastic bottles.

More recently, Jacobs led a pilot program where an aqueous ozone cleaning solution was used to replace caustic chemical cleaners, according to the press release. The system saved water because it did not require a rinse after use. Jacobs presented his findings to Stanford's housing directors, who agreed to set aside funds to implement the cleaning system in every residence hall on campus.

The 10 will be honored at an awards ceremony hosted by Google on March 23. For more information, visit waterawards.org.

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Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

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