Water at CWRU

North East Ohio, and CWRU, are geographically lucky and surrounded by fresh water, from Lake Erie, to our many rivers and smaller lakes, as well as frequent storm events. CWRU is committed to potable water conservation, reducing our impact on stormwater runoff that can pollute waterways, and caring for our local watershed, the Doan Brook.

Water conservation not only saves water but also saves the energy used to collect, move and clean the water to make it potable. CWRU has installed low flow shower heads in all new residence halls and is currently retrofitting older halls as well.

The University has installed over 30 water bottle filling stations throughout campus. These water filling stations encourage university residents to drink tap water while discouraging the use of single use/disposable bottled water. Drinking tap water instead of bottled conserves energy and ecosystems. Tap water is less energy demanding and harvested in a more ecologically friendly manner than bottled water. Tap water in Cleveland is collected locally from Lake Erie.

The landscaping maintenance crews utilize a number of technologies for weather informed irrigation that not only reduce water usage but also are better for the the vegetation. Some of these technologies include low-flow nozzles, auto-timed irrigation systems, auto-rain sensors and Netafin drip irrigation systems.  Auto-sensors monitor immediate local weather occurrences to inform operation while other technologies are employed by the grounds department based on reported weather data.

Stormwater runoff is produced when rain drains off hard surfaces such as roofs, roads, and sidewalks, and do not absorb naturally into the ground to recharge groundwater. Most of this water will discharge into a storm drain and sewer system and then into a nearby body of water. Stormwater is usually a very different temperature than streams and lakes and also contains contaminants from roofs and roads, causing negative effects on receiving bodies of water.

Additionally,  stormwater runoff from heavy rain events often overload the capacity of regional sewer systems. In Northeast Ohio, and many other places around the country, storm sewers are linked to sanitary sewer systems. When the storm sewers are overburdened, a combined sewer overflow (CSO) occurs, draining untreated sewage into waterways, harming both wildlife and their habitats. CWRU works to reduce its contribution to stormwater in a number of ways to minimize the harmful impacts on the environment

Green Roofs

Two buildings on campus currently have vegetated or “green” roofs that soak up a great deal of rainwater instead of discharging it as storm water: The Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations, and the Tinkham Veale University Center. The Mandel Center’s rooftop garden is 900 square feet and features native shade trees and grasses. The Tinkham Veale University Center’s vegetated roof is much larger at  29,888 square feet, and decreases the overall impervious surface area of the building’s lot by 20%.  Adjacent to the Tink is one of two intensive vegetative roofs on campus, above the Severance Hall parking garage, lot 29.  There is one additional intensive vegetative roof above the Dental School in the Medical School complex.  More green roofs are planned to be installed on new and existing buildings.

Groundwater Collection

An underground cistern below the Alpha Phi house collects rainwater that is later used for irrigation, diverting approximately 1,648 cubic feet of water annually. This system also works to conserve water that would otherwise be used to irrigate the grounds. 

Case Western Reserve has instituted a Pervious Pavement initiative that requires applicable replaced walkways to be pervious: utilizing porous concrete, paving stone or brick walkways instead of traditional concrete.  Current paving includes over 11 Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs) which is a calculation of how much stormwater runs off of residential homes in the area.

A groundwater recharge system is part of The Village at 115th, CWRU’s LEED certified apartment-style residence hall.  The Village encompasses a 1,200 car parking garage, seven residence houses for a total of 800 students, a baseball field, multipurpose field, athletic track, and the newly constructed Wyant Field House. The system diverts 70% of rainfall from the 22 acre site through a series of drains that flow into a buried perforated pipe system. Approximately 2,222,000 cubic feet of water, or 16% of the total stormwater runoff from campus, is managed annually, recharging groundwater instead of contributing to stormwater.

Snow Melt Systems

Salt used to keep the roads and sidewalks clear during the winter is a major stormwater pollutant to our local waterways. To keep CWRU’s 18 miles of sidewalk passable during our winter months, we use a lot of salt.  To limit our impact, CWRU employs snowmelt technology. Snowmelt systems are made up of pipes of steam-heated propylene-glycol and water, buried in walkways, ramps, and steps. These systems allow us to maintain safe walkways while using less salt. CWRU has 15 snowmelt installations on campus, with plans to add more. 

  • The main and West entrances to the Peter B. Lewis building as well as parking lot
  • The Amasa Stone Chapel parking lots, connecting to the quad-side entrance, including the steps, to Adelbert Hall
  • Adelbert Road side entrance to Adelbert Hall
  • Steps between the North Residential Village (NRV) and parking lot 46
  • Sidewalk between Houses 4 through 7 and East 115th Street
  • Entrance to Starbucks Coffee in the NRV
  • Adelbert Road side entrance to Clapp Hall
  • Wickenden Building Quad-side entrance
  • Quad-side handicap entrance to Sears Building
  • Front ramp entrance to White Building
  • Crawford steps and podium
  • Tinkham Veale University Center North and South entrances
  • Entrance to Bio-Enterprise

The Case Western Reserve University campus is situated within the Doan Brook Watershed. Doan Brook is only 12 miles long and is a direct tributary to Lake Erie. Unfortunately, the stream runs below campus in a nearly mile long culvert from the intersection of Ambleside Drive and Martin Luther King Boulevard to the west side of the Cleveland Museum of Art, limiting our campuses access with the stream. Five public parks allow access to Doan Brook: Cleveland Lakefront Nature PreserveRockefeller Park Lagoon, Lower Shaker Lake, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and Horseshoe Lake Park.  

While we may not have direct access on campus due to the culvert, our actions on campus have a direct impact on the stream. The Doan Brook is polluted by sewage as well as non-point pollution  such as road salt, household pesticides and sediment. It is also threatened by a flooding due to non-pervious surfaces as well as stream modifications such as dams, culverts and channelization.

Each spring Doan Brook Watershed Partnership hosts a stream sweep to clear the brook of trash accumulated throughout the winter.  The stream sweep is well attended by the Student Sustainability Council and several departments within CWRU Facilities Services including Custodial and Grounds donate time and equipment to assist with the effort.