Students compete to save water and Westmont cuts back irrigation to cope with the California drought.
Two dry years have left California short of water, and Westmont has stepped up efforts to consume less.
“We’re prepared to continue con-serving and make even more cutbacks should the drought persist,” says President Gayle D. Beebe. “We’ll do our part to be a great neighbor. We’re committed to maintaining a sustainable campus and conserving resources such as water and power.”
The Montecito Water District has declared a water shortage emergency, directing all customers to decrease water usage immediately by 30 percent. Westmont will likely exceed that reduction. Last year, the college voluntarily consumed 20 percent or 6,800 hundred cubic feet (HCF) less than its allotment and expects to nearly double this amount in 2014, decreasing consumption by 2,000 HCF below the reduced allotment.
A friendly competition between residence halls saved more than 227,000 gallons of water during a six-week period in spring semester. The Campus Life and Student Life offices sponsored the Every Drop Counts contest to encourage conservation and increase awareness of the drought afflicting the entire state. Armington Hall won the prize of an ice cream social for all its residents.
The college installed new shower timers in each stall throughout the campus. These low-tech devices—a simple hourglass with sand housed in a rubber case—worked well in the wet environment. Student life staff also hung water conservation tips around bathrooms to educate students. A TV monitor in the Dining Commons kept a running total of the amount of water saved and the leading residence hall.
Enterprising students living in Armington pulled pranks on their peers taking showers to make a point about conservation. Shutting water off mid-shower, they yelled slogans such as “You save 100 percent of the showers you don’t take!” and “There’s no “I” in ‘water.’”
Armington, where 236 students live, cut its water consumption by more than a third. Page Hall came in second place and Van Kampen finished third.
The Student Life office also promoted conservation by showing videos with tips for saving water and encouraging stories about conservation in the Horizon, Westmont’s student newspaper.
In addition, Westmont is irrigating only with non-potable water (not from Montecito Water District) and is significantly reducing the amount of watering on campus. Some designated areas will remain dry and turn brown, but the college will lightly irrigate places such as the formal gardens and Kerrwood Lawn.
Westmont began cutting back water consumption years ago by installing low-flow shower heads and toilets, using drip irrigation and planting drought-tolerant vegetation. From 2003 to 2013, the college’s annual water usage dropped nearly 17,000 HCF or 31 percent.