Johns Hopkins’ commitment to sustainable water systems dates back to the father of sanitary engineering, Baltimore-native Abel Wolman, who was one of Johns Hopkins first three engineering graduates. His discoveries on chlorination of public water supplies ushered in what would be an undying focus on water issues at the university, and revolutionized water sanitization across the globe. Across the university, people are changing their behaviors and making purchasing decisions to reduce our water usage, and the university standard for new construction and renovations is to install low flow urinals and toilets, low flow showerheads, and other water conservation devices to reduce overall consumption.  Additionally, the Johns Hopkins Water Institute works diligently to solve global water challenges through innovation, education, and collaboration.


The installation of new water saving devices such as low-flow toilets and urinals, showers, and faucets are helping conserve water

  • All renovations and new projects use maximum 1.28 gal/flush toilets, maximum 1 pint/flush urinals, automatic 0.5 gpm restroom faucets and 1.25 gpm shower heads.
  • When possible, enhanced dry coolers are being considered to reduce the use of open (evaporative) cooling towers.
  • Rainwater collection systems, some also gathering air conditioning condensate and Reverse Osmosis wash water, are installed in buildings at JHSPH and SOM. This water is being used for toilet flushing, cage pre-wash and irrigation instead of treated water.

Beginning in 2013, the Office of Sustainability, Plant Operations, and the student chapter of “Take Back the Tap” conducted an inventory of all campus water fountains on Homewood to develop a comprehensive replacement and retrofit plan. The mission was simple: change the way people think about where their water comes from.  Thanks to the tireless and collaborative efforts over 100 water fountains in nearly every building on Homewood either received gooseneck bottle fillers or were replaced with a bottle filling station to make it easy to refill a water bottle anywhere on campus.


Johns Hopkins University and the Health Systems have a contract with Quench as their preferred filtered drinking water cooler provider. This relationship makes the transition from plastic, disposable bottled water to more sustainable systems more financially feasible for offices through discounted pricing and greater safety and hygiene. 

Take Back the Tap (TBTT) is a coalition of students, researchers, and staff at Johns Hopkins University that are committed to reducing the university’s consumption of bottled water and transitioning the campus to more affordable, sustainable and convenient sources of drinking water. JHU-TBTT works to reduce the consumption of bottled water at Hopkins by  by promoting the switch to alternative and sustainable sources of drinking water on campus.

Specifically, student TBTT leaders are working to achieve these goals by:

  • Asking students to pledge to stop buying/drinking bottled water and use a reusable bottle instead
  • Inventorying all water fountains on the Homewood campus to develop an implementation plan for retrofitting or upgrading all campus fountains with water-bottle fillers
  • Hosting events across the university to raise awareness among students
  • Creating informational/educational media to raise awareness among students
  • Asking campus event planners to offer filtered tap water stations or pitchers of water at their events rather than providing bottled water


Because Johns Hopkins is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the University places an emphasis on mitigating storm water-related impacts. Some projects the University has completed include the addition of storm water bio swales, a rainwater capture system for reuse in cage washing in laboratories at the medical campus, new rain gardens, and an underground parking garage that replaced an impervious asphalt parking lot with one of the largest green roofs in the Mid-Atlantic.

In 2004, the Homewood campus completed an irrigation retrofit, complete with high tech monitoring systems, saving over 8 million gallons of water annually. Most campus landscaping and new design projects incorporate plants native to the Mid-Atlantic region that require little to no irrigation. New green roofs have also been installed on the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Cordish Lacrosse Facility.

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