When on campus, the EcoReps usually dedicate a week every year to raising awareness about water efficiency, called WaterWise Week. If you’ve spent time on campus, you may remember us hanging up posters about water usage and asking you to sign a water reduction pledge outside of the dining halls. This annual tradition began when Pomona competed in the annual Campus Conservation Nationals, a competition where campuses compete to reduce their water and electricity usage over the course of a month. Although Pomona has not competed in this competition for several years, the EcoReps have continued to dedicate a week of each year to raising awareness about ways to use water more mindfully.
On campus, there is a common misconception that the majority of water consumption comes from landscaping and other outdoor use. However, this is not the case - as the 2020 Annual Report shows, the majority of campus water usage comes from indoor sources, including residential buildings.
This year, although we are not able to put on our WaterWise information campaign and events in our traditional format, it is still important to remain engaged with strategies as to how to reduce on-campus water consumption for when we return, particularly as Southern California is a very arid region, suffering from severe and recurring drought. Consequently, it is especially critical to be mindful about water consumption when living on campus. On campus, there is a common misconception that the majority of water consumption comes from landscaping and other outdoor use. However, this is not the case - as the 2020 Annual Report shows, the majority of campus water usage comes from indoor sources, including residential buildings. A 22% reduction in campus-wide water usage was achieved between 2019 and 2020, the first reduction in usage since 2016. The vast majority of this reduction stems from the reduction of water usage which occurred after students were sent home for the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is certainly major work to be done in reducing outdoor water usage as well in order to meet Pomona’s goal of a 60% reduction in campus usage by 2030, this indicates how critical residential patterns and habits can also be to campus usage as a whole.
Annual indoor water usage on campus increased by approximately 18 million gallons between its low in 2016 (at the end of the 2012-2016 drought, and at the height of student awareness surrounding water scarcity in California) and in 2019 (the last full year before the interruption of the COVID-19 pandemic), indicating that the reduction in student awareness which came with the end of the drought had a major impact on campus-wide water usage as a whole. With the massive reduction in residential water usage seen as a result of the pandemic, we will have a much better starting point for meeting Pomona’s 2030 Sustainability Goals than we did when we left campus, one which can be used to catalyze an even greater response to the need to reduce water consumption on campus if we can recognize how much of a difference student efforts can make. Simple steps like using shower timers (which are available for free at the Sustainability Office), ensuring that you turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth or washing your face, only doing full loads of laundry, and using the dual-flush toilets properly can help to target indoor water usage on campus. Even more tips on reducing water and energy when living in a dorm may be found at sites like this. I encourage you to consider how you could take steps like these in your own life, and how these steps could transfer to life on campus next fall - if we do so, increased student awareness of issues of water use efficiency could impact campus consumption far more than you think.
Susannah Budd is a junior Geology major at Pomona from Bow, New Hampshire. She is especially interested in agriculture, food systems, and sustainable soil science.