On Campus - Clean Water and Sanitation

As the state of Florida’s University of Distinction in Environmental Resilience, Florida International University is a global leader in research and advocacy for Clean Water and Sanitation. With campuses located along the edge of Miami’s ecologically and economically essential Florida Everglades and Biscayne Bay, we also recognize the need to live sustainably as a university community. 

Finding innovative ways to sustainably live, work and play is ingrained in the FIU culture. The university’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety is charged with ensuring university compliance with regulations, statutes, guidance and best management practices for environmental protection. The university’s current Environmental Management Policy was first implemented in 2006 and most recently updated in 2021.

FIU library

Water Usage and Care 

In Fiscal Year 2021-2022, FIU used 193,230,921 gallons of treated/extracted water for consumption, sanitation and university operations to support a total population of 66,723 students, faculty and staff. Domestic water is supplied by Miami-Dade County and measured through a metering system. Irrigation water from lakes and aquifers is measured through flow meters. Per objective WS-6 of Miami-Dade County’s Water Sewer and Solid Waste Element, sustainable water extraction techniques are designed to be safe and compatible with natural ecosystems. Wastewater from campus operations is discharged to Miami-Dade County’s South District Wastewater Treatment Plant. Miami-Dade County’s wastewater management practices include the use of reclaimed water to help preserve the Biscayne Aquifer.

FIU’s Environmental Management Policy requires all members of the university community to minimize potential hazards to the environment and comply with all local, state and national laws and regulations designed to protect the environment. This includes water quality standards set by the U.S. Clean Water Act and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection

As a campus community, we work to minimize negative impacts on the environment and contribute to the restoration, reuse and recycling of resources. This includes minimizing wastewater and ensuring all waste is disposed of in accordance with regulatory and university requirements, as outlined on page 4 of the FIU Environmental Management Policy. FIU maintains a zero tolerance policy for illicit discharge within the university. Our commitment is to prevent pollution of all kinds, whether working on campus, in the community, on the water or in the water. 

researcher in lab

Prevent and Protect

Objective 2.1 in the university’s Campus Master Plan includes a Water Conservation program that features an educational campaign for the university community, new construction requirements for high efficiency and a leak detection program, among other water conservation initiatives.

At FIU, researchers, lab managers and supporting lab staff are provided training to maintain a safe work environment designed to protect people and the environment. The program is managed by a team of skilled professionals from FIU’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety who provide guidance and oversight on the proper disposal of hazardous materials, research proposal safety reviews, hazard assessments, lab equipment certifications, development of specific laboratory safety programs, new lab walkthroughs/consultations and special hazard materials/equipment approvals. The university’s comprehensive Hazardous Waste Management Plan is available online and provides guidelines and resources to protect the university community and the environment from dangers posed by improper handling/disposal of hazardous waste, and ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations.

water fountain

Drinking Water 

FIU ensures all students, faculty, staff and guests have access to free drinking water with drinking fountains strategically located in every building on campus. With sustainability at the forefront of everything we do, many of these drinking fountains have been updated in recent years with modern drinking stations, which include a traditional spout for a quick drink and a second, higher spout for filling reusable water bottles. These stations provide real-time data on a digital screen about the amount of plastic waste prevented with each fill-up and a sticker on the side detailing the energy and water efficiency of the fountains. So in addition to hydration, our efforts are also focused on reducing the use of single-use plastics on campus and improving overall efficiency.

Responsible Building Design 

FIU's building policy requires that all new construction meet a minimum of LEED Silver Certification and this is also included throughout the university’s Architectural Design Guidelines. A variety of water minimization techniques are applied including condensate reclamation and low-flow fixtures. University-wide development must comply with water use efficiency techniques for indoor water use in accordance with Sections 8-31, 32-84 and 8A-381 of the Code of Miami-Dade County. 

The LEED process addresses water run-off during construction in a prerequisite credit that aims to reduce pollution from construction activities by controlling soil erosion, waterway sedimentation, and airborne dust.

FIU adheres to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). This requires development of EPA Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan for construction projects site area greater than 1 acre. FIU adheres to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for issuing permits and performing compliance and enforcement activities as the NPDES permitting authority in Florida.

Responsible Landscaping and Water Reuse 

FIU Facilities Management oversees landscaping and irrigation operations on all FIU campuses. They strategically use the right plants on our campuses to limit water use, as per the university’s Landscape and Irrigation Manual, which is available online. They choose plant species that are drought tolerant, as well as native plants, since they require less maintenance and minimize the need for fertilizers and pesticides. 

Per policy 2.2 of the Conservation Element in the campus master plan, FIU’s goal is not to use any potable water to water campus grounds. Retention ponds on campus are used to capture rainwater and run-off that can be used for irrigation. All irrigation systems are equipped with rain sensors to ensure pumps are only activated when needed and flow meters to measure water usage. At FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus, treated graywater is used to irrigate the grounds.