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Are you water wise?

By Sustainability Office on August 5, 2013
Photo of Allison Shafritz '15

Allison Shafritz ’15

Article submitted by Allison Shafritz ’15

Most people are familiar with the common mantra “water is life- use it wisely.” But few know just how much water we actually use or how we can significantly reduce that amount. The over-consumption of water is a prevalent issue globally, nationally, and right here at Colgate.

Currently, the Colgate community consumes over 70 million gallons of water each year and spends nearly $800,000 on our water bill. To put this in perspective, the average Colgate student uses about 70 gallons of water each day. It is worth noting that the average person only needs 14 gallons per day to cover our basic needs. That means that in a single year, each one of us consumes 20,440 more gallons than is necessary. That is the equivalent of 327,000 glasses of excess water. Conserving even a fraction of that water — whether for drinking, cooking, cleaning, showering, brushing our teeth, or heating — would save our university tens of thousands of dollars per year and make us a more sustainable and water-wise institution.

The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan outlines a number of initiatives to reduce campus water use. At this point, all of the shower-heads in residence halls have been replaced with low-flow shower-heads, which are saving up to five million gallons of water each year. Additionally, all top-loading washing machines have been replaced with energy- and water-efficient front-loading machines. In 2012, we switched to tray-less dining in Frank Dining Hall. Without 2,000 trays to wash per day, we save a significant amount of water and energy each year. These initiatives have already proved to be successful as we have reduced our water consumption from 114 million gallons in 2008 to just over 72 million gallons in 2012. These and other projects will continue to save water in the upcoming years.

In addition to these great initiatives, there are actions that individuals can take to reduce water use. After all, residence halls use the largest portion of water on campus. If each student living in a residence hall on campus followed just one of these rules, it would make a significant difference in total consumption. First and foremost, students should reduce shower time to no longer than five minutes. Cumulatively, that could save over 230 gallons per month per person. Second, no student should leave the water running while brushing his or her teeth. This could save up to 25 gallons per month per student. In terms of laundry, students should only wash full loads. This one is a no-brainer; it saves time, money, energy, and water. And finally, all leaks and dripping faucets should be reported to Facilities (x7131). The cumulative amount of wasted water from showers, laundry, running faucets, and leaky sinks is quite significant. So incorporate one or more of these tips into your lifestyle today and help conserve our planet’s most precious natural resource.

If you are interested in monitoring water use on campus in some of the residence halls, check out the Lucid Dashboard.

To see this astonishing video highlighting what Colgate students know about water use on campus, watch this video created by ENST 390 students in Fall 2011.

What actions do you take to reduce water consumption on campus?

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