The average person in the U.S. uses anywhere between 80 and 100 gallons a day, and Columbia Gorge Community College [
where I now work where I used to work] is no exception. The college used an average of 1,880 gallons a day for irrigation, drinking water, and sanitation purposes at the Hood River campus last year – and the college is working to set a better example. “Reducing water usage on campus is a good idea,” said Jules Burton, Environmental Science faculty at the college. “Such measures can help the college save money and conserve water supplies from three groundwater springs that serve the entire city.”
Her class took on the task of understanding current water usage at the college by conducting a School Water Audit. This type of audit is a recognized standard for analyzing water sources, compiling water uses, and identifying ways to save water. There are many types of School Water Audit formats available, but the class used one called Be Water Wise created by the National Environmental Education Foundation.
The class conducted the audit at the Hood River – Indian Creek Campus, and it took two days to complete. The class evaluated indoor and outdoor water usage. Students tallied water bills, identified leaky faucets, measured sink and toilet water flow, counted spigots, and reviewed the entire irrigation system. They drafted a detailed report that identified possible water problems, and they suggested ways to save water.
“Some interesting findings are found in the summary document,” Burton reports. “The students identified ways to save water by irrigating the native trees and shrubs less and using a targeted watering scheme. They also suggested using more efficient aerators on all showerheads, sinks, and spigots at the college. One of their major goals is to ensure the college meets the EPA efficiency standards for water use, and they identified simple measures to help us meet this goal.”
The college’s Green Team – an advisory group of college staff and faculty – is now reviewing this School Water Audit information and will work to implement suggestions at the Hood River campus. Jules Burton and her Environmental Science class will be conducting another School Water Audit on The Dalles campus this spring, and the Green Team enthusiastically supports their efforts.
This green initiative is summarized with a slightly-updated quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed [students] can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”