The sound of water trickling can mean many things to many people, but for environmental activists, it might sound an alarm. With many people advocating for water conservation, Keene State College is being looked at as a major player in aiding that idea.
Keene Operations Manager for Water and Wastewater Treatment Aaron Costa said now is the best time to consider ways of conserving water. “It’s been a really dry year for us. Typically, we live in a really water-rich country and we’re fortunate for that, but we’ve had a good drought this year,” he said. Costa explained that the city of Keene has multiple sources of water.
“We have two surface water reservoirs that provided water to our drinking water plant…and we have four groundwater wells that we use to supplement that surface water site,” he said. However, he said for the time being, Keene has had to rely on the groundwater wells more so than in the past. Costa admitted he doesn’t entirely know why this drought has occurred, but he does know some beneficial ways to respond accordingly.
He said as a college promoting sustainability, KSC should do what they can to help. “We’re not in a dire state [and] we’re not in any dire shortage at this point, we’re just trying to get people to think about it more,” he said, “because every drop counts.”
Another individual thinking about every drop is KSC director of campus sustainability Cary Gaunt who said just because we’re in this drought doesn’t mean we should only think about water now. “Even if we were in a normal year of precipitation, water is still a finite supply, so we live in this place [and] on this planet with lots of other people and lots of other beings,” she said. “All of the living creatures…use water and there’s only a limit to [that] amount. So then the question becomes, are we taking more than our fair share or are we taking our fair share?”
Gaunt used the Colorado River as an example. The river, which runs through seven states and part of Mexico, provides water for 30 million people, according to National Geographic.
Gaunt said what happens with the Colorado River is that some people take more than their fair share of water, leaving very little for people in Mexico where the river ends. “By the time the river gets to Mexico, it’s literally dried up. So it means some people are being completely deprived of water…making it an environmental and social justice issue,” she said. She said we’re lucky we don’t share such severe struggles here in Keene or New Hampshire for that matter. Gaunt said, “It’s a way of thinking and being in the world [and asking] ‘what is my fair share of resources to take?’ We need to think about that as individuals, but also as an institution, as a college.”
Gaunt said she does applaud the college for its successful efforts toward sustainability and awareness, but she said there is more that can be done. “Some of our older buildings…we have old fashioned toilets in them and…they tend to use over three gallons [of water] per flush which is a lot,” she said. “If we were to switch all of these out to low flow toilets, which are just as effective, trust me, we can cut that in half.” She said there are other options to conserve water such as switching to low flow shower heads and more effective faucets.
Gaunt said it can’t just be the administration of KSC working for change. “In terms of students…here’s an example. I walked into a dorm the other day…[and] I saw an athlete coming in and [they] literally put in shorts, socks and a t-shirt, which is a teeny tiny load, but it’s going to use all that water. So make sure you wash with full loads,” she said. “Be mindful about turning the water off when you brush your teeth. If you’re cooking…try to turn off water as often or frequently as you can.” She said taking shorter showers helps as well. “You can get just as clean with a two minute shower as you can with a 10 minute shower,” she said.
KSC sophomore Jason Thomas said he tries to be aware of what he can do to help. “I’m very aware of how much water we use [in my apartment],” he said. Thomas said he does this for two reasons: to save money and to be more sustainable.
He said he has a friend who lives in China and when they talk, they often converse about the environment. “If you look at the world as a whole, some areas are in a real need of water,” he said. “Clean water is so valuable.”
Gaunt suggested the website Water Use It Wisely, which has over 100 ways to conserve water, from watering plants with old ice cubes to turning off the shower when you wash your hair.
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org