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Water Conservation

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Laboratories can consume high amounts of water for cooling equipment and washing and sanitizing glassware. See the best practices below to ensure that you are using water as efficiently as possible.

Washing Glassware

Make sure your faucet is low-flow! Cardinal Green Labs installs low-flow aerators on lab faucets for free. Contact to get started. 

Whether washing lab glass in a sink or glassware washer, make sure to do so efficiently and use appropriate quality water for each task (e.g. use tap water for bulk rinsing of dirty glassware and use progressively purer water with each step, only as needed). When replacing old glassware washers, choosing a water and energy efficient model can save thousands of dollars in operating costs. The School of Medicine is saving over $330,000 annually from upgrading their glassware washers to more efficient models.

Sterilizers and Autoclaves

Autoclaves and sterilizers can use several hundred gallons of water every day to sanitize glassware and cool the hot water used for sanitizing before sending it down the drain. Make sure to turn off equipment when not in use and only run full loads. 

To greatly reduce the water consumption of your autoclave or sterilizer, ensure it is outfitted with a water miser, which reduces the amount of cooling water by monitoring the temperature of the system and applying cold water only when needed. When a water miser was installed on a sterilizer in Stanford’s Gilbert Biology Building, the building’s water consumption was reduced by 50%. For even further savings, use reverse osmosis (RO) wastewater for sterilizer cooling water.

Other Lab Equipment

Vacuum pumps/aspirators: Wet/liquid ring vacuum pumps use approximately 15 liters of water per minute. Use a dry vacuum pump instead.

Cooling Lab Equipment: For cooling lasers, electron microscopes, or other research equipment, use recirculating closed loop chilled water. Using once-through cooling water is prohibited by Santa Clara County. 

Lab Wastewater

Through its management practices, Stanford’s wastewater pollution prevention program achieves high standards for compliance and environmental stewardship. The Environmental Quality Group works to ensure awareness of the regulatory requirements for proper storage and disposal of waste that could impact wastewater quality, blockages, and compliance. 

Initial rinses from chemical bottles and containers that have been in contact with hazardous or prohibited materials cannot be discharged to the sanitary sewer unless authorized in advance by Stanford Utilities. This includes initial rinses from hand washed glassware using acids, bases, solvents, or alcohols, as well as chemical reagents or additives containing metals like thimerasol or copper, or copper containing algaecides. Initial rinses should be contained and disposed by EH&S. The use of water aspirators is prohibited in discarding wastewater. Review the Wastewater Best Management Practices Fact Sheet for a detailed overview. 


Stanford’s water efficiency team is dedicated to helping labs reduce water consumption, and offers best practices and efficiency upgrades to reduce laboratory water use through Cardinal Green Labs. Please contact Erica Kudyba for questions or support on water saving measures in your lab.