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PLNU works to conserve water in drought

SustainPLNU reported that one PLNU student uses as many as 27 gallons of water per day in the dorms alone. Total water use in 2014 was almost 49,000,000 gallons of water, higher than the past couple of years. SustainPLNU attributes this rise to increased enrollment and expansion of campus.

Young ranks number one for the lowest water usage, of 11 gallons per student per day. Flex follows with 17 gallons of water used per day. Nease uses 19 gallons; Klassen uses 20 gallons; Hendricks uses 23 gallons and ties with Goodwin’s usage. Wiley utilizes 26 gallons, which is just below Finch, at 27 gallons a day. The numbers were normalized by SustainPLNU to adjust for number of students in each dorm.

Trisha Stull, the sustainability officer at PLNU, said that within the past few years, PLNU installed fixtures to conserve water, including campus retrofits and fixtures in remodeling and new construction projects. These fixtures include low-flow toilets, waterless urinals and low-flow showerheads in the restrooms. SustainPLNU also directed the switch to more efficient appliances, like water-conscious wash machines.

“PLNU’s water use plays into the broader issue of California’s drought in that every bit of water saved is important, and as members of the California community, we can be part of the solution,” Stull said via email.

In 2008, PLNU eliminated trays in the Caf, conserving water by not washing the hundreds of thousands of trays a day. Currently, SustainPLNU is researching how to reuse Nease’s gray water.

On the landscaping front, PLNU uses native California plants as often as possible because they require less water. PLNU minimizes lawn space while still keeping an area for students. One such example of this is Colony apartments, where artificial turf was installed. The weather-smart irrigation system and matched precipitation rotators on the sprinklers (more efficient than spray heads) help minimize water use.

California, amid a now four-year-long drought, continues regulations as part of emergency measures implemented last summer after extremely low water levels, UT San Diego reported March 18. While some limits were expanded, new ones were added in a meeting in Sacramento March 17 among state officials.

“Due to the mandatory City ordinances regarding irrigation, we have adjusted our clocks to water three days/week except where we need to get plants established,” said Kathy Conner, PLNU’s horticulture and grounds manager, via email. “We have turned water features [i.e. campus fountains] off. We continue to monitor the landscape for any leaks or run-off and plant drought tolerant species whenever possible.”

The results of this effort are stressed lawns and plants dying back from the tips of twigs and branches when adjusting to less water. Conner said this may change the look of campus slightly.

“We will continue to do what we can to maintain a clean, aesthetically pleasing campus for all to study and work in,” Conner said. “We appreciate the efforts of the community as a whole in assisting us with reporting and leaks they may come across and helping us care for the landscape by keeping trash and spills to a minimum. Damage to landscape and spills on walkways require water for new plant establishment or cleaning up messes. Everyone can help us conserve.”

To help reduce water use on campus, Kirstie Hibbard, the sustainability office assistant and Students for Environmental Action and Awareness Club president, said students should participate in dorm efforts and campuswide efforts, including the Cliffs Cleanup events or monthly campaigns. Students can reduce water by remaining mindful of sink and shower use, reporting leaking fixtures around campus and washing only full loads of clothes or dishes.

“It is always important that we recognize our roles as stewards of God’s creation and we are mindful of water usage,” Hibbard said via email. “Now that we are experiencing a drought, it is ever important.”

SustainPLNU now shares facts and tips via social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) about sustainable water use. February was Water Awareness Month and SustainPLNU hosted film screenings, Cliffs Cleanups and a social media campaign (#TakeBacktheTap). SustainPLNU also participated in countywide Waste No Water campaigns.

“As a Christian campus, PLNU is deeply committed to creation stewardship,” Stull said. “This means practicing conservation of earth’s resources including water. Water is particularly important as a member of the California community. However, as a dry climate it is always important for us to conserve water. Conserving water in non-drought years makes drought periods less difficult. We should always be conscious of our water choices and making strides to reduce our consumption.”