Pepperdine has been very successful in efficiently utilizing water on campus and has saved a total of 4 billion gallons of water since the construction of the campus. This is important as California's increasing population is anticipated to reach 48 million by 2030, increasing demands on water supplies by 40%. Water supplies may only last another 20 years and some consider water availability the most considerable environmental concern facing California. Given the periodic droughts we experience and the increasing scarcity of water as a resource in California, it has been a top priority for Pepperdine since the 1970s to build a strong foundation for water conversation and recycling.
Pepperdine's commitment to water conservation dates back to the construction of the Malibu campus in 1972. For more than 40 years, the University has recycled all wastewater generated on the Malibu campus using tertiary treatment. The treatment occurs at both Tapia reclamation plant and Malibu Mesa reclamation plant. Pepperdine and the Malibu Country Estates neighbors paid for the construction of Malibu Mesa, because there is no regional wastewater system in Malibu.
The resulting recycled water is used for 99% of campus irrigation, which would otherwise require "new" or potable water. Pepperdine stores the reclaimed water in two lakes on campus. The lakes are regularly cleaned and the material removed from the bottom of the lakes is used as a natural fertilizer throughout campus.
Since 1987, Pepperdine University has operated an irrigation monitoring program specifically designed to conserve water and reduce runoff from campus. The irrigation schedule is administered by an advanced automated central control system based upon historical irrigation practices. The system adjusts according to current climactic conditions collected by on-site weather stations, inspection of plant health, and soil moisture estimates made by Pepperdine personnel.
In 2003, Pepperdine decided that dual flush toilets would be utilized for all future toilet replacements. One dual flush toilet can save 18,000 gallons a year. 76 have already been installed on campus. Low flow shower heads are also utilized on campus, which reduce water usage by about 50%. Pepperdine is currently testing a waterless urinal, which could potentially save 40,000 gallons of water per urinal.
For the past 22 years, Pepperdine has come together on "Step Forward Day" to benefit the community and dedicate students to a lifetime of service. In 2009, more than 1,400 participants provided 4,200 hours of community service at more than 45 different locations. Some of the volunteers participated in beach cleanup activities to help keep the oceans free of trash. The Pepperdine Volunteer Center hosts ongoing environmental volunteer opportunities. Programs include a coastal cleanup day and creek cleanup.
Pepperdine maintains vegetation native to California's Mediterranean climate, which eliminates the need for irrigation and improves water quality. Pepperdine also uses compost in place of fertilizer, which benefits downstream water quality. Of the Malibu campus that is actively managed by FMP, 20% is managed completely organically or without fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals.
On March 5, 2008, Pepperdine hosted the facilities for the City of Malibu's Water Run-Off conference at the Drescher campus. The conference focused on water run-off issues affecting the entire Santa Monica Bay while providing panel discussions on developing situations. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky, founder of Heal the Bay Dorothy Green, former city of Malibu Mayor Jeff Jennings, and Center for Sustainability Director Rhiannon Pregitzer opened the conference. The goal for the conference was to motivate the public to use the information and resources provided to make changes and improvements that would help reduce run-off.
Pepperdine hosted the facilities for the Water Quality Symposium on April 30, 2009 at the Drescher Executive Center. With wastewater discharge permit violation notices being issued to more than 30 Malibu businesses and public facilities in the Civic Center area, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board took part in the Malibu Water Quality Symposium to discuss the latest in septic system regulations and water quality technology in Southern California. Facilitated by City Councilmember John Sibert, the symposium also featured several scientific experts who explained how the latest regulations and technologies would affect Malibu, a city chronically cited and sued for polluted waterways.