Catholic University of America focuses on optimizing water use on campus by implementing best practices to reduce potable water use and stormwater.


Efficient Plumbing Fixtures

The University has four LEED certified buildings which use water efficient plumbing fixtures such as aerators, flushometers, and showerheads. Father O'Connell Hall's fixtures are 30% more efficient than average buildings'; Opus Hall’s fixtures are 20% more efficient than average buildings'; and Maloney Hall’s fixtures are 40% more efficient than standard fixtures. Additionally, Maloney Hall has an underground cistern used to collect rainwater which is used for flushing in restrooms.

Even in buildings that are not LEED certified, Catholic U focuses on water efficiency. In 2020, the bathrooms in Flather Hall were upgraded to include more water efficient fixtures. The Power Plant also has a 15,000 gallon stormwater harvesting cistern and filtration system that collects rainwater for use in three cooling towers.

Stormwater Management

Flash flooding and waterway quality is a major concern in Washington, DC. To manage stormwater on campus, the University has more than 80 stormwater management devices. A stormwater management device is a structure or vegetated area that reduces the volume of water that reaches the District of Columbia sewer system as well as the number of pollutants carried in it. They can range from large structures, such as engineered ponds, to more discrete structures, such as underground tanks and landscaping along curbs.

Below is a list of stormwater management devices on campus.

  • Green Roofs

    Green roofs capture and store rainfall in engineered growing media that is designed to support plant growth. 
    • University lawn, O’Connell Hall, and Aquinas Hall. 
  • Rainwater Harvesting

    Rainwater harvesting systems store rainwater and release it for future use. Rainwater that falls on a rooftop or other impervious surface is collected and conveyed into an above- or below-ground tank (also referred to as a cistern), where it is stored for non-potable uses or for on-site disposal. A rain barrel is a simpler type of rainwater harvesting facility.
    • Power Plant, Maloney Hall.
  • Permeable Pavement

    Permeable pavement is an alternative paving surface that captures and temporarily stores stormwater by filtering it through voids in the pavement surface into an underlying stone reservoir. Filtered stormwater may be collected and returned to the conveyance system, or allowed to partially infiltrate into the soil. Design variants include porous asphalt, pervious concrete, and permeable pavers.
    • Carlini Field at DuFour and Centennial Village plaza. 
  • Rain Gardens

    Rain Gardens, or bioretentions, capture and store stormwater runoff and pass it through a filter bed of soil media composed of sand, soil, and organic matter. Filtered runoff may be collected and returned to the conveyance system, or allowed to infiltrate into the soil.
    • Pope Leo Lane, Centennial Village, Maloney Hall, and Curley Hall. 
  • Sand Filter

    A sand filter captures and temporarily stores stormwater and passes it through a filter bed of sand and stone. A typical Catholic University sand filter is contained in an underground concrete vault. The filter consists of three chambers: the first is devoted to separating sediment and trash from the water, the second is a filter bed consisting of sand and stone, and the third allows for treated water to discharge from the facility.
    • Millennium North, Millennium South, and Flather.
  • Infiltration Trench & Basins

    Infiltration trenches or basins capture and temporarily store stormwater before allowing it to infiltrate into the soil over a two-day period. Infiltration facilities use temporary surface or underground storage to allow incoming stormwater runoff to infiltrate into underlying soils. 
    • Pryzbyla Center 
  • Stormceptor

    An oil grit separator designed to protect waterways from hazardous material spills and stormwater pollution, including suspended sediment, free oils, floatables, and other pollutants that attach to particles. 
    • Pryzbyla Center, Cardinal Stadium at DuFour.
  • Baysaver

    This facility uses density differences and gravity to remove suspended solids and floatables from stormwater runoff, and keeps it from entering waterways. 
    • Grounds Maintenance Facility, O’Boyle Parking Lot. 


The Catholic University of America uses water efficient landscaping practices. The University selects native and adaptive plants to reduce watering needs. 

In addition, the majority of campus does not have permanent irrigation. In the past 10 years, the University has moved away from permanent irrigation on campus for capital improvements. These changes were most notably implemented at Maloney Hall, the new Dining Hall, Father O’Connell Hall, the Angels Unawares Plaza, and Opus. In 2021, the University installed a new irrigation control system with an improved rainwater sensor. The sensor control will reduce the need for constant irrigation during rain events.

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    The Energy Project

    Today, buildings on campus are heated and cooled by a chilled and hot water loop with some supplemental efficient boilers. Prior to the Energy Project, the University was using steam to heat buildings and lost significant water in the transfer from the Power Plant to campus buildings.

    The Energy Project began and ended at the Power Plant. It started with the replacement of old steam boilers with high efficiency hot water boilers and the installation of a new central chiller plant. Then, the project snaked around campus with the installation of below-grade piping and utility lines to distribute utilities to all campus buildings.

    The Energy Project improved the University’s energy performance and also significantly reduced campus water usage. The drastic renovation changes the energy distribution, improves efficiency at the Power Plant, and lowers operating costs. In addition, a 15,000 gallon stormwater harvesting cistern and filtration system collects rainwater for use in three cooling towers. The expected water savings are 270,226 gallons per year. The project started in 2016 and was completed in early 2021. Preliminary results show a campus water reduction of 39%.