School campuses aren’t the most efficient places on the planet! Most have been designed without regard for water efficiency or green spaces. The EPA states, “Heat islands form as vegetation is replaced by asphalt and concrete for roads, buildings, and other structures necessary to accommodate growing populations. These surfaces absorb—rather than reflect—the sun’s heat, causing surface temperatures and overall ambient temperatures to rise.” Thus concrete and asphalt usage must be utilized efficiently and minimally. As water supply becomes an increasing global concern, everyone must become more mindful when using this limited resource. Water efficiency can usually be improved in landscaping, restrooms and classroom use.
Think about how you’re using water, when you really need it and the amount necessary for each job.
Water-efficient landscaping. Use drought-tolerant plants that are native to your school’s area to reduce water use for landscaping.
Efficient bathroom fixtures. Install low-flow or dual-flush sinks and toilets or waterless urinals.
Greywater. Rather than wasting pure water, use recycled water from your local municipality for toilets, urinals and even landscaping.
Water timing. Water your school’s landscaping early in the morning or late in the afternoon to minimize the evaporation that occurs when sun is most intense (10 a.m.-3 p.m.).
Drip irrigation. To avoid the high evaporation rate that comes when watering with sprinklers, switch to drip irrigation to hydrate green areas of campuses.
Rainwater harvesting. Collect rainwater in cisterns and use it to water the landscape or fill toilets and urinals. By harvesting rainwater that falls and collecting it into cisterns for later usage, schools will minimize the water required to run the campus and ease stress required of the municipal utilities and infrastructure. This requires additional plumbing throughout the structure to appropriate fixtures. Rainwater reuse may have certain regulations and restrictions in your state, county or city, so be sure to consult your local government for legal implementation into the school’s design. Also involve experts who can advise you about mosquito prevention in standing water.
Education for operations and management staff. Learning new water-efficient practices will require a bit of investment in human capital, but it is necessary for those who are in charge of using water to understand the importance of conservation and the most efficient methods.