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Water Stewardship

While Cleveland’s location on Lake Erie – the 12th largest body of fresh water in the world – provides Cleveland with a distinct comparative advantage, the city’s reputation has also been blemished by the historic Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 that resulted from excessive levels of pollution caused by heavy manufacturing and industrial contamination.

Freshwater resources represent an invaluable local asset that has shaped Cleveland’s identity, both in the way that the city has perceived itself and how it has been recognized outside the region. Cleveland Clinic actively protects our water supply through conservation measures and stormwater measurement. As stewards of our community's health, we see preservation of our community's natural resources as a vital part of our health mission.

2015 Year of Clean Water

The Cleveland Water Alliance facilitated the 2015 Year of Clean Water Working Group as part of Sustainable Cleveland 2019. This working group elevated the conversation around clean and abundant freshwater as a regional asset, forging collaborations among partners to collectively implement water education and outreach projects, and promoting the multitude of watershed and water-related organizations, programs, and events throughout Northeast Ohio.

Cleveland has the responsibility to protect the 128 trillion gallons of fresh water directly off its shores in order to maintain the city’s water supply and ensure that its residents will have clean and readily available water resources for generations to come, but it also has the opportunity to leverage this invaluable asset as a driver of sustainable economic growth and prosperity for the local economy.

Rain Barrels

Painted Rain Barrels


Inspired by the Collinwood Painted Rain Barrel Project, which we hosted in Glickman Hall at main campus in June 2015, the Cleveland Clinic System Green Teams sponsored a rain barrel painting contest to promote water conservancy awareness and engage facilities. All of our green teams participated in the event, the enterprise voted on the best designs, and the winner received $500 towards their facility’s employee hardship fund.

The winner of this year’s rain barrel contest was Hillcrest Hospital titled Water Has Many Colors.

Avon Bed Tower

The expansion of Cleveland Clinic’s Richard E. Jacobs Family Health Center was planned with great attention and care to the natural environment. The Avon, Ohio site contains extensive areas of wetlands, forests and large amounts of streams. Throughout the project planning process, we coordinated directly with natural resource and regulatory agencies, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources, to ensure that the hospital expansion was in compliance with all state and Federal laws in place to protect these important resources.

The permits received from the state and Federal governments authorized impacts to 3.97 acres of wetlands and 671 feet of stream. However, these important resources were not lost forever. As a condition of receiving the permits, Cleveland Clinic was required to provide replacement wetlands and streams to compensate for the impacts resulting from the project. To mitigate the loss of wetlands on the site in accordance with state and federal rules, we purchased a total of over 9 acres of wetlands from The Nature Conservancy and Ohio Wetlands Foundation, two organizations that work to restore wetlands within Ohio.

Cleveland Clinic also committed to the extensive use of permeable pavers across the new parking on the property. Permeable pavers are an important green infrastructure technology that helps to protect the water quality of our streams. When rain hits permeable pavers, it is retained for an extended period of time within the deep gravel sub-base, which also serves to filter out contaminants from the storm water before it is released. Permeable pavers provide great benefits when compared to traditional asphalt or concrete pavement. The use of permeable pavers at the Avon site is the largest of its kind within the greater Cleveland area.

Water Optimization

We have 28 different controllers on main campus that run the irrigation system. All are equipped with rain sensors so they do not operate when it rains, but twenty-three are older Hunter controllers that must be manually adjusted. We have five Tucor controllers that can be remotely accessed from a computer that control the MM garage, 89th Street green space, the Crile Mall, the new lab building, the area around the heart center and along the Euclid corridor, the Aillee and JJ building and the Crile Mall east and part of Cole Eye Institute. The controllers are designed to receive weather information such as expected rainfall, wind speed and temperature so that presets can be determined to meet each area’s need for water.

Rainbow Sprinklers and our Grounds Coordinator try to adjust the times and frequency of watering of each controller on a bi-weekly interval. We have already reduced the time of watering around campus due to the cool weather and rainfall. Historically, in September we shut off sections wherever we can.

Waterless Hand Scrub

Dr Davis

Led by physician champion Matthew Davis, MD, our Greening OR committee promoted water conservation through use of dry scrub (taps off while lathering) in our ORs. With Facilities' assistance to install (hidden) water sub-meters on surgical sinks, Dr. Davis conducted a water audit to establish a baseline practice. He then educated the House Staff Association on the effectiveness of a dry scrub technique, citing the American Journal of Infection Control's publication on the effect of surgical site infections with waterless and traditional hand scrubbing protocols on bacterial growth.

Rain Barrel Contest Winner: Hillcrest Hospital

Painted Rain Barrel

Make Your Own Rain Barrel

Learn more about watersheds, water conservation, and making your own rain barrel.

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2015 Year of Clean Water

The Sustainable Cleveland 2019 (SC2019) Year of Clean Water was celebrated in 2015. During this year, people connected to their water resources in order to restore, conserve and protect this valuable asset

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