Take Some Action

Start by becoming a keen observer of water conservation techniques! Take the H2ouse: Water Saver Home’s tour, which walks you through an animated house, showing you where you can save water, teaching you how to read your water meter, and giving you tips for improvements. Though it’s catered to the home, the concepts certainly apply to schools.

Don’t forget that conserving water often means conserving energy too! So, using less saves oil, electricity, propane or whatever your school uses to heat its water.

When you’re ready to tackle water conservation in your school, we suggest one of two paths. You can either follow the conservation strategies we list below or you can check out this water efficiency checklist for school facility managers made by the City of Tampa, Florida.

Water by
Mr. McGladdery. Some rights reserved.

As you explore these water conservation techniques, click here for water terms you don’t know!

1. Monitor your school’s water bill
As simple as it sounds, monitoring your school’s water bill for odd areas of high use can lead to huge conservation savings. As Water Use it Wisely explains, reading your water bill and water meter closely are tools that can help you discover unknown leaks. Schools have been known to catch a spike in water usage that lead to discovering of a leak that had been completely overlooked for a long time. To learn more about reading your water meter, click here. For more on long-term tracking of your water bills, especially across various buildings on your school grounds or throughout the school district, check out Go-the-Extra Mile.

2. Fix leaks!
Did you know that a leaking faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day, according to Planet Green. The cheapest way to lower your water consumption is to only pay for water you actually use! As H2ouse points out, 10% of your water can be wasted by leaks in faucets, toilets, and irrigation systems. Learn more about detecting leaks here. For advice on repairing leaks, check out H2ouse’s action page and Water Use it Wisely’s how-to page.

Make sure to keep a close eye on leaks in your irrigation system because many older systems can lose 50 to 75% of their water. H2ouse offers maintenance advice for preventing irrigation leaks.

3. Run a good-water habit campaign
Don’t underestimate the small habits that can make a huge difference in your school’s water consumption. For example, running a dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full can conserve 1,000 gallons of water a month, according to Water Use it Wisely. There are dozens of other water-savvy habits that everyone in your school can adopt if someone challenges them to do so. Students at your school can create a campaign to teach and inspire others to develop smart water habits. They can make posters, give presentations, or write a water conservation song that they perform over the intercom! Challenge students at your school to take on a water habit campaign and allow them flexibility in presenting the information in an inspiring way. As far as the content, urge them to research good habits along with estimates on how much water each actions saves.
Think outside-the-box about habits that can save water. For example, Water Use it Wisely points out that you can save a lot by keeping a pitcher of cold water in the fridge instead of letting the water in the tap run until it gets cold. A pretty simple concept, yes, but how many of us do it?

4. Install more efficient water fixtures
Did you know that low-flow showers can save 50% more water or that low-flow toilets can save 50-80 gallons of water a day? Nowadays there is an ultra-efficient option for almost every type of water fixture. Click on each of the technologies to learn more… For lists of available brands and models of water efficient fixtures, see Go the Extra Mile.

Click here to read about one school district that decided to use waterless urinals in order to save an estimated 8 millions gallons of water a year.

5. Water your landscape wisely
Many people don’t water their landscapes as efficiently as they can. But, if you learn all the water conserving techniques that keep your landscape green and if you can think outside the box, you can save a lot of water and money. H2ouse offers some smart ways to manage your lawn here. They also recommend that you be thoughtful about only giving your plants the amount of water they need. You can set a timer if you manually water plants so that you don’t overwater them, or you can get a rain shutoff device for your irrigation controller. One of the most useful devices is an ET irrigation controller that will automatically prevent plants from being watered when they don’t need it. There are also water calculators like this one by Water Use it Wisely that help you determine the necessary amount of water for your vegetation. For other smart irrigation methods, read these pages by Water Use it Wisely

If you don’t have time for any major watering improvements, then at the very least, Water Use it Wisely reminds you to only water your landscape in the morning or evening to minimize evaporation.

6. Plan your landscape wisely
If you’re in the planning stages of building a new school, or thinking of re-modeling your landscape, consider water needs as part of the equation. H2ouse recommends planting plants that are appropriate to the natural precipitation patterns of your local climate. Therefore you won’t need much or any additional irrigation. Also consider the all-inclusive approach of xeriscaping, where you plan creatively so that all aspects of the landscape work to conserve water. For example, you not only plant native plant species, but you help improve the soil’s ability to retain water, cover crucial areas with mulch, and minimize the space dedicated to grass. Everybody loves grass, but it’s not essential to have grass everywhere, and where it is needed, there are some beautiful alternatives to the normal species we plant, especially in areas prone to drought. There are many tips for planning a water wise landscape here. We offer even more resources in Go the Extra Mile’s Landscaping Wisely chapter.

7. Harness your rain power!
Does it make sense to pump all the water you need for irrigation straight from an aquifer or city water system, or does it make more sense to maximize the water that falls naturally from the sky? The sky, right? A fun project for students is to think of ways to capture rainwater and re-direct it to the watering needs of your landscape. For example, you can put a rain barrel under the downspouts coming from the roofs, and these barrels come in many different shapes and sizes. There are also many different kinds of systems that catch, store, and disperse the water. Some of the larger systems can be used to do more than just water the grass or the school garden. The water can be used to flush toilets and even run washing machines. Some pre-fabricated luminescent systems can be installed on high rise buildings and serve as a showcase for conserving water. For more about how rain catchment systems work, click here.

8. Put your graywater to work
Graywater is a plentiful source of water surging through your pipes right now that is not being utilized. What is it, you may ask? Well, it’s water you’ve already used once, dirty water…but not water that’s too dirty for a second use. Water from bathroom sinks, showers, and clothes washers are a few examples. This graywater can be reused in many different ways in the school and landscape through graywater systems. Re-using this water does not often require elaborate biological or chemical treatment. “Blackwater,” on the other hand, which is water from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, and toilets should be treated more extensively if it’s intended to be reused. For more about installing graywater systems at your school, see Go the Extra Mile.

For more about any of the concepts behind our water-saving strategies, check out H2ouse’s Take Action site.