Each time students line up to go to the restroom, gallons of water go down the drain. For schools trying to provide a good example of environmental stewardship — and cut mounting utility costs — old, inefficient fixtures and equipment that use excesssive amounts of water can stymie a school's conservation efforts.
With sustainable design and energy efficiency assuming a greater role in facility design, schools and universities have many tools available to help curtail water consumption and reduce utility bills.
“By installing water-efficient equipment and integrating water-efficiency practices into everyday operations, a 30 percent reduction in water use is possible,” says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Low-flow toilets generally use about 2 gallons less water per flush than conventional toilets, according to the Division of the State Architect in California. Multiply that by the number of flushes that take place in a typical school each year, and it's more than a drop in the bucket.
San Antonio Water System recently replaced 57 high-flow toilets at Churchill High School in San Antonio with more efficient models. The North East Independent School District estimates that the upgrade will cut yearly water use in the school by 1,120,000 gallons — a savings of about $3,250.
The most effective way to conserve water is not to use any. No-water urinals use traps and sealant liquids instead of water to send urine down a drain. According to the Saving Water Partnership, a group of Seattle-area utilities, a no-water urinal with 75 uses per day will save more than 25,000 gallons a year compared with a conventional 1-gallon-per-flush urinal.
The partnership notes that no-water urinals “are best suited to moderate- to high-use facilities where restrooms are monitored and cleaned by dedicated staff on a daily basis.”
Gallons saved per flush using a typical low-flow toilet compared with a conventional toilet.
Source: Division of the State Architect of California
Gallons of water saved per year for a typical no-water urinal installation compared with a 1-gallon-per-flush urinal.
Source: Saving Water Partnership (a group of Seattle-area utilities)
Gallons of water conserved per year at one San Antonio high school by replacing old toilets with low-flow models.
Source: North East (Texas) Independent School District
Estimated number of gallons of water that will be saved per day in the United States by 2020 because of high-efficiency toilets.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency