GREENSBORO -- California's recent drought conditions are inspiring a Triad university to get ahead of potential problems. UNC-Greensboro has started using a cistern to collect rain water for use around campus.

For every three inches of rainfall, UNC-Greensboro is able to get up to 2,500 gallons of water for free from the sky to use around campus.

"Basically watering flowers and bushes, new plantings, any place where something is growing," said Jim Munro, UNCG irrigation technician.

The Guilford County Soil and Water Conservation District awarded a grant that covered about 75 percent of the cost to install the cistern. All they need is rain water.

"It goes into what they call a "leaf eater," that thing up there. The down pipe is called the "first flush." Any debris that's up there will wash off, go into that it will fill up that pipe and the clean water will start going into the tank," said Munro.

Conservationists say the cistern will cut the amount of water the university has to buy from the city and it will decrease the amount of runoff going into the city's storm sewers.         

"We're keeping the water that falls on the house or the home, business or the building. We're funneling that into the cistern instead of wasting that water," said Millie Langley, Guilford County soil conservationist.

The UNCG maintenance crews say they're not only going to use the cistern during the spring and summer months, they have a plan to use it during the winter.

"What we're trying to do is set up a system where we can pump the water out of the tank to make brine so, we're trying to use it year-round instead of just the hot months, June, July and August," said Munro.

Under the grant provisions, the cistern has to be maintained for 10 years with random inspections from the state. University officials are interested in installing more when funds become available.