Conservation challenge reduces water usage by over 7.5 percent

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Last week’s water conservation challenge spread awareness for what may be California’s worst recorded drought. Despite last weekend’s storm, which produced the hardest rain the college has seen in three years, California’s drought continues to threaten the state’s water supplies.

Resident Advisor (RA) and kinesiology major Sita Wong (junior) organized this semester’s challenge with Sustainability Coordinator Emma Sorrell ’13. Wong participated in the previous challenge and created the event to encourage students to respond to the drought. Sorrell collected data about each residence hall’s water usage as part of Occidental’s efforts to reduce water consumption. In addition to supporting student conservation, Occidental made efforts to reduce its water use by cutting back irrigation by about 50 percent and replacing inefficient water spouts with less wasteful ones, according to Sorrell.

During the previous challenge, some students cheated by leaving water taps running in competing halls. This semester Wong sent a preemptive email to the entire school to warn against cheating, although there was no indication that cheating occurred.

Students responded overwhelmingly to the challenge, conserving twice as much water last week as during the water and energy conservation challenge last semester, according to Sorrell.

Religious Studies major Leah Wolf (junior) teaches sustainable living at a local garden and noted that she and her neighbors in Stearns Hall are conscious of their water consumption.

“People in my hall are generally pretty efficient. They don’t take long showers or keep the water running,” Wolf said.

As a result of the challenge, students reduced water consumption by approximately 60,000 gallons last week, compared to 30,000 during the previous challenge. During the school year, Occidental College as a whole uses approximately 793,885 gallons of water per week, according to Sorrell. The amount saved during the recent challenge is over 7.5 percent of the college’s usage.

However, some halls were set back by unavoidable circumstances. Braun Hall increased its water use by 18 percent, in part due to a broken washing machine, according to Graduate Hall Coordinator Kathleen Hughes. Stewart-Cleland Hall, which won the competition last semester, was disqualified because the monitor that reads its water use broke the week of the competition.

If students have interest in continuing to conserve water, they can take shorter showers and turn off the faucet while they brush their teeth.