Monarch butterfly on native plants in the bioswale near Lincoln Hall

These portfolio solutions will help UIC achieve it's commitment to be a Net-Zero Water Campus as well as a Biodiverse Campus as well as make the campus resilient to detrimental climate change effects.

Goals for Strategy 4.0: Natural Resources and Ecosystem Services

  • 4.1.1 Green Stormwater Infrastructure Implementation Plan (7.4.4 Flood Resistant Buildings)

    Increase natural campus flood mitigation strategies through bioswales and landscape alteration.

  • 4.2.1 Building-Level Water Metering

    Update each UIC building with a water meter

  • 4.2.2 Manual and Low-Flow Fixtures

    Replace all automatic and/or high-flow flushers to manual and low-flow fixtures

  • 4.3.1 Campus Habitat Pollinator Plan (7.3.2 Pollinator Habitats)

    Increase pollinator habitat program to encompass greater percentages of campus land

  • 4.3.2 Tree Care Plan (7.3.1 Tree Canopy)

    Acquire funding for increasing inventory and maintaining the trees across all campus units


Global climate change has significantly greater impacts on the natural environment than simply warming the atmosphere. A warmer climate can hold more moisture, increasing the likelihood of heavier and more frequent rainfall events. Changes in precipitation patterns will be one of the most prominent indicators of a warming climate. 

The Chicagoland region is putting the fresh water source, Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, at risk due to nonpoint source pollution such as stormwater runoff into the lakes, rivers, and streams. The Chicagoland region is under “extremely high” stress level for flooding which can cause millions of dollars of damage to property and presents a significant liability issue, especially when heavy rains overflow the system, forcing the city to open the overflow points along the river, and in extreme cases, opening the locks and releasing the stormwater that is mixed with sewage back into Lake Michigan – close to where UIC obtains its drinking water.

Sustainable stormwater management is aimed at retaining water on site for use, evaporation or percolation, and separation from wastewater. Sustainable water management entails using less water in plumbing and washing and thus reducing water waste into the sewer system. The goal is to measure and then reduce runoff to the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system from surfaces owned by UIC. This can be achieved through best practices in green infrastructure techniques such as bioswales, green roofs, greenways, native landscaping with soil amendments, rain gardens, rainwater capture, and/or the removal of paving and structures.


UIC receives 37.83 inches of rainfall per year on its 244-acre campus, an equivalent of 251 million gallons of stormwater falling on a mix of landscaping, roofs, sidewalks, parking lots, and streets. UIC consumed on average 660,000,000 gallons of water annually between FY 2012 and FY 2016 (CAIP portal). Past studies show that the power plants use the majority of water on campus (Figure 14). Hightemperature hot water and steam are used for heating while chilled water is used for cooling. Anytime there is a major leak or break in these closed-looped systems it creates a spike in water usage for that year, which is disproportionate to the average use (Figure 13). A significant component of water use efficiency is prevention and management of piping for central heating and cooling systems. Key strategies to reduce water use include building-level water metering (Solution 4.2.1), and retrofitting restroom fixtures—particularly automatic flushers and/or toilet basins with manual low-flow fixtures (Solution 4.2.2)


restroom fixtures inside a bathroom

OS’s Sustainability Internship Program (SIP) and an Industrial Engineering Design Team researched restroom water use at UIC. The results of this study suggest a quick payback for regularly used restrooms that are equipped with automatic flushers.

The steps the Team took to arrive at a final recommendation included: audit of women’s and men’s bathrooms in one building, distribution of campus-wide survey, calculation of a cost analysis, and the use of the Analytical Hierarchy Process to select amongst alternatives. Toilets inside Taft Hall bathrooms have automatic flushers and the models used are five years old or older. Each time an occupant opens the door, uses the toilet, and closes the door, an automatic flush occurs. This totals to an average of three flushes per occupant. If each toilet were to be flushed once per user, 562,272 gallons of water consumption could be avoided but could go as high as 843,408 gallons at 3 flushes per occupant. Upgrading Taft Hall toilets to the recommended model would cost between $2,000.00-2,800.00 dependent on whether bowls need to be replaced as well.

After a systematic analysis of alternatives based on weighted preferences for dollars saved, water consumed, required maintenance, and environmental impact, the Team concluded that installation of the Sloan ROYAL 111 manual flushers would be the best choice. Even under the worst case scenario, it was predicted water usage by the toilets would be reduced 72% from this implementation, with a payback shorter than a year, and greatly reduce maintenance costs.


UIC covers over 240 acres and some of the largest green spaces in proximity to the Chicago Loop (after the Chicago Park District’s Millennium Park and Grant Park). Preserving this open space for aesthetics and student activities can be accomplished while providing ecosystem services such as landscapes that enhance pollination and are critical to maintaining an active food supply. Integrating biodiversity into campus operations will also aide in stormwater reduction (section 4.1.1) through native plantings.

 UIC has set institutional goals beneficial to pollinators such as increasing native prairie, and woodland plants (Solution 4.3.1) and has goals that recognize the environmental, economic, and human health and well-being benefits of trees (Solution 4.3.2). UIC can also enhance the soil through biodiversity improvements since the right soil plays an important role in stormwater reduction and carbon sequestration. Facilities Management is engaged in partnerships to implement an integrated pest management plan and to diversify plants in support of pollinators; and therefore will be a key partner in providing an enhanced habitat for pollinators. A biodiverse campus is a resilient campus as it is better equipped to deal with catastrophes due to climate change and sudden weather events.

UIC is proud to help the City of Chicago live up to the motto, “urbs in horto”, city in a garden. Let’s be proud that UIC is a university in a city in a garden, “universitas in urbs in horto”.