Before IU Bloomington students returned to campus last month, the Bloomington water utility was experiencing historically high demand due to an extremely hot and dry summer. Industrial fans were brought in to cool the water pumps that were overheating. In anticipation of a bump in demand due to the return of the full IU student body, the city issued an Emergency Water Restriction Order and asked what the university could do to reduce demand.
Even before the order was issued, IU was taking steps to curtail water use, such as turning off fountains, using non-potable water for landscape irrigation, and conserving water used in campus facility processes.
Working with the Physical Plant Utility Information Group, IUOS proposed a Million Gallon Challenge water conservation challenge to make returning students, as well as faculty and staff, aware of the need to conserve water.
In the first ten days, from September 1st through September 10th, IUB has reduced water consumption by 3,715,110 gallons compared to the same period last year. This is equivalent to 743 tanker trucks of water.
Among the residence halls, Collins set the pace with 35% savings compared to last year, followed by Wright and Woodlawn at 15% each.
IU Athletics got into the act with Cook Hall saving 20%.
Among academic buildings, Bryan Hall led with 23% savings, followed by Swain Hall with 21% and Lilly Library with 20%.
Hurricane Isaac delivered much needed rain to Bloomington and cooler weather has reduced the need for irrigation. Last week, Bloomington lifted its emergency order, but asked that citizens continue to conserve water. So the Million Gallon Challenge will go on until the end of this month.
We hope that conservation habits learned during the challenge continue, because saving water is a good idea all the time.
Why? Don’t we have an unlimited supply of water in Monroe County with a 10,000 acre lake and over 40 inches of rainfall a year?
Water conservation was not a consideration in Atlanta prior to their historic drought in 2008. When the water level of their 38,000-acre Lake Lanier dropped 21 feet, revealing land that had not been seen since the 1950s, water conservation suddenly became an issue. Even if we manage to dodge an extended multi-year drought here this time around, wasting water does come at an increasing cost, including some costs we rarely consider.
For Indiana University Bloomington, where 11,000 students reside on campus, water use is a $3.4 million annual cost (combined water, sewer, and storm water), not counting the substantial hidden energy costs of pumping and heating water. Although campus building area increased significantly since 2004, water use has been reduced by over 24% through simple but effective conservation programs initiated by IU Physical Plant, saving millions of dollars that can be spent on educating students.
In Bloomington, the electricity used to pump and process water is the number one use and makes up about 45% of the total municipal electric bill, or more than all the buildings and street lights combined. In Indiana, we burn coal to produce the electricity to pump water and we use a lot of water in the process of burning coal to make electricity. Saving water at the tap saves much more up and down the line.
Kudos to all the water savers at IU Bloomington. Keep up the great work!
“When oil runs out, motors stop. When water runs out, life stops.”