STU trying to cut water use

STU's latest residence challenge encourages residents to cut their water usage. (Cara Smith/AQ)

The latest residence challenge at St. Thomas University has an environmentally friendly twist – water conservation.

From Jan. 30 to March 2, students living in the five on-campus residences and the Windsor Street houses are being asked to reduce their water consumption.

Kyla Tanner, the St. Thomas University students’ union’s sustainable lifestyles coordinator, originally came up with the idea.

She had taken a water sustainability course at the University of New Brunswick, and tried to run a similar competition in the residences there. She thought it hadn’t run as smoothly as it could have, and figured STU would be a better place for it because she could take more direct control.

“We’re just trying to change behaviours and make it fun with the challenge,” said Tanner, adding that she wanted it to last five weeks because it takes a month to form a habit.

STU facilities supervisor Dave Dunbar had previously been monitoring water consumption in the faculty areas of Holy Cross House as well as in the cafeteria in Rigby Hall.

With this information, Tanner could remove these areas from the consumption calculations. Tanner contacted residence manager Clayton Beaton Jan. 12 to propose the idea.

“It’s just something to keep the wheels rolling in terms of the environment in the residence community, and more so within the St. Thomas community,” said Beaton.

He said things like shutting off the water while brushing your teeth can make a big difference when so many people are involved. As well, Beaton said residence life will be looking into getting energy efficient shower heads in the future.

Vanier Hall president Katelyn Ward likes the challenge. She plans to encourage water economy in the house. She suggests doing laundry and washing dishes less frequently and in bigger loads.

“It’s good for the environment, and it brings houses together to compete against the other houses,” said Ward.

The event has been promoted through the university website, posters, and a Twitter account (@STUh2oChallenge). At the end of the challenge, the winning and runner-up houses will receive prizes, which have yet to be announced.

Houses are evaluated on their own progress, and are not compared to the others. Every Friday, water usage, which is measured by water metres attached to each house, will determine who is saving the most.

Tanner said the most important thing is steady improvement, instead of a drastic drop during the last week.

Bill MacLean, STU’s director of facilities management, said students should be more aware of the water they use because water consumption is included in the residence fees they pay. He said students can conserve water by being aware of how much they use to cook and clean as wel as through general maintenance, like reporting a leaky faucet.

“Here in North America, we tend to take water for granted,” MacLean said.

“Try to imagine being without water piped into homes, versus walking to the river with a bucket. How much water we use now is because of that.”

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