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Florida International University has a strong commitment to being “Worlds ahead.” In regards to this, the university has adopted different techniques and mechanisms to be as sustainable and green as possible. It’s implemented these methods indoors, ranging from paperless hand dryers, using more recyclables, and motion detecting water faucets. On the other hand, the outdoors has committed to reusing and engaging in sustainable irrigation methods for landscaping. As many different areas of practices are being used, water remains one of the most important topics for conservation of resources. In this report, we’ll be discussing some of these techniques for water conservation around campus and determine how sustainable some of these practices are.
How does FIU utilize water?
How it works
Approximately 342 acres create what we know as FIU’s Modesto Monique Campus. Around campus we see different ecosystems and organisms coexisting. These range from the turtles and ducks seen in the bodies of water, to different native and invasive species such as oyster plants. Water, as it is one of the most important sources to life, plays a critical role in how ecosystems function and thrive. Here in South Florida, the hot and humid subtropical climate calls for a lot of drinking water to keep our growing population hydrated, as well as for irrigation water for agriculture and landscaping to keep our plants healthy and happy. On campus there is approximately 18 different bodies of water, some of which are connected.
FIU has fully engaged and committed to adopting sustainable practices around campus. From transitioning over to paperless hand dryers, to censored sinks, to eliminating straws in some Starbucks locations, you could say FIU has made an effort to be as efficient and sustainable as possible. Water management and conservation is a hot-topic right now, and our campus has partaken in initiating a change to how we use and care for it. There are many ways in which the campus does so, but the landscaping and beautification methods will be the main point.
Who is in charge of inspecting drinking water fountains?
As many of us have seen, there are plenty of water fountains located all over FIU to ensure that all students have access to clean and safe drinking water at all times of the day. However, not many of us know exactly where this water is coming from or if we are efficient with our drinking water. Since FIU is located in Miami-Dade County, the university gets its drinking water from the Biscayne Bay Aquifer. However, the aquifer is very close to the surface, which makes it prone to contamination. To ensure that the water is clean and safe to consume, the water undergoes several different treatments such as filtration, which is the removal of waste and bacteria from the water. This water is then distributed all over campus to be consumed by students and faculty.
One way that students and faculty consume this water is by the several water fountains all over campus, such as the one located in the Graham Center. As soon as you walk into the Graham Center by the Barnes and Noble, there is a water fountain on the left hand side. The water fountain has the typical spout but it also has a smaller spout found near the top of the water fountain that is meant to fill up water bottles. This is a brilliant idea since it promotes the use of reusable water bottles so that we can try and reduce the amount of plastic water bottles produced that will end up in landfills.
How efficient are we in our resources?
In addition to this feature, there is also a digital screen located on the right side of the water fountain. This screen depicts how much waste using this feature prevented. As of when I last checked, the screen displayed 329,198. This is an extremely impressive number as the number is relatively close to half a million disposable bottles. Furthermore, this specific water fountain also has a sticker that says that “Elkay” has manufactured the water. The water fountain also has a sticker that states that the water used in that specific water fountain is energy and water efficient and “GreenSpec listed” which basically validates that this water fountain is efficient.
Finally, on the side of the fountain there is a sticker that has several different details related to the exact model of the water fountain and other small details that are significant to that specific fountain. For example, the same water fountain that is located in the Graham Center is labeled as Model “EZWSRNF_1” and has a serial number of “130225100”. This same sticker states that Elkay as previously stated has manufactured the water fountain. Elkay is also responsible for sending a representative to inspect the water fountains to ensure that they function properly over time. Not only does this sticker say the model and serial number, it also states that this specific water fountain uses 120 Volts, 60 HZ, and 1 Amp. In conclusion, the water fountains on campus are both water and energy efficient according to their labels located on the water fountains.
How much water is FIU using on a regular basis?
Similarly to many universities around the world, FIU has tried to reduce water consumption. In 2012 FIU begin the 5-year energy conservation plan, which consists of reducing natural sources, which the overuse can lead in a contribution to global warming. A section of that conservation plan consists in adding installations of low flow water fixtures like urinals, shower, toilet etc. Adding sensors to sinks and toilets have contributed to a significant reduction in water use. Also, this plan suggests students to take showers in a maximum of 10 minutes. All of this installation has become in a huge amount water reduction around the building. All of that effort concludes on having about a 30 percent less water uses in the new installations.
FIU facilities management has taken important steps to reduce their environmental impact on water. For example, housing buildings on campus has been upgraded and are now more water efficient. Now the laundry room use 77% less water than a few years ago.
According to stars.aashe.org on the 2017 FIU water consumption report, FIU has used less water than what they estimated. The total water that FIU has used including potable and non-potable water, they estimated to spend around 538,246,942 gallons of water per year, but they only spend that year about 450,698,139 gallons of water, been in a reduction of 87,548,803 gallons of water which is a great amount. FIU estimate to use about 183,055,277 gallons of potable water each year but ended using about 277,299,011, which ended, been an increase in water use, which is not a good news and it was not part of the plan. The total potable and non-potable water used per unit of vegetable ground at FIU was 29.90 gallons per acre and 28.05 gallons of potable water used per unit of floor area.
According to the conservation plan report, in the last years FIU has been recognized for been the #1 of all Florida state universities in energy conservation. The FIU goal is to be #1 in all natural sources conservation like water consumption.
I think that all universities should have a conservation plan that consists in using renewable energy and reusing water waste. Maybe if the government and all communities take this serious we would have a reduction on global warming in the next years.
What methods does FIU use for irrigation and landscaping around campus?
One of the methods that FIU uses to save water is its transition to Xeriscaping Techniques, which are applied all around campus. This technique is using particular methods to decide which plants belong where according to the climate and conditions of that area. The Fire bush plant is a great example, it’s placed in areas that receive lots of sunlight because they thrive under high exposure to sun and are drought-resistant. This technique also yields for little to no input of synthetic chemicals, such as pesticides or fertilizers, because these chemicals can eventually go into our water supply and contaminate it with chemicals. Its also chosen to use landscaping plants that require less water.
In addition, FIU uses two distinct methods for capturing water for irrigation. The first is capturing water in rain barrels. These water barrels are made of highly durable plastic and can hold up to 30 gallons of rain water. The Garden Club along with different earth and environment student organizations use this water to irrigate plants and different areas.
In some states such as Texas and Ohio, it’s illegal to collect rainwater. People tend to take advantage and disrupt the natural water cycle. Fortunately, in Florida, we’re allowed to collect this water and use it for landscaping. Here in SF, we’re susceptible to soil erosion, so retaining water from always going down to the ground has its many advantages.
As well as water barrels, its incorporated capturing water for irrigation through the ponds and lakes around the campus, called retention ponds. These ponds have their intricate pipe systems that allow it to be transported to different areas for watering purposes. According to FIU’s STARS report, the university has been able to recycle/reuse approximately 230,000 gallons of water in one performance year. In my opinion, the university is doing its part in adopting different sustainable practices and committing to change.
On the other hand, the Biscayne Bay Campus has embraced treating its graywater for watering their landscape. Graywater the water released from baths, sinks, or other house-like appliances. All around, FIU is committed and prepared to be as sustainable and green as possible.
What is the extent of our impact? – local, regional, global
At FIU, we are able to impact areas around us on a local, regional and global scale. In regards to water preservation, conservation and sustainability, FIU makes many efforts to get others involved. At a local scale, FIU has promoted events and information sessions to help students be environmentally friendly. Twitter, Instagram and other social medias have been an excellent place for FIU to reach out to the student body and spread awareness of necessary changes that can be made individually or projects that are being started. Another example of local efforts is the generous variety of environmental courses offered at FIU. Due to a range of education offered on the environment, we have students who are learning about environmental realities and want to get involved. This shows that our school is dedicated to extending our impact in all ways; big and small, as long as it is making a difference.
At a regional scale, FIU has hosted events such as World Water Day 2018 at BBC. This event took place on March 22nd 2018 and was promoted by the Student Government and other environmental clubs. The mission behind this event was to talk to students about the important impacts of how our individual water use can make a big difference. I believe this type of event is a great idea as it holds an more personal discussion about our actions and how we can change them for the better.
Here at FIU, we are proud to say that our water impact spreads out large to a global scale. FIU is constantly striving to participate and create incredible solutions to the global water crisis. These sustainable efforts are what make FIU the global solution center that it is. An example of how committed we are to developing solutions to the global water crisis is by the creation of the Global Water for Sustainability program, known as “GLOWS”. Since 2006, FIU has started this incredible program and as of 2012 they brought clean drinking water to more than 20,000 people in less developing countries. Their mission with this global project was to “promote the integrated management of water resources and aquatic resources worldwide”. GLOWS has spread to eight countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, and provides a team to work with local water sanitation program. This is where they trained workers on how to maximize their supply of clean water, which is a huge help towards the population’s health and other factors. Each of these projects focuses on public education and awareness, infrastructure, water management planning and policy development to ensure that these places are set up for success.
How can students practice water sustainability?
As college students we use water everyday on a regular basis that is more than necessary as individuals. Some main ways that students could cut down on wasting water is avoiding long showers short and not taking long showers that last 30 minutes or so. As college students that live in dorms we cook from time to time and as we cook we use dishes, when we wash dishes we run the water a lot. Instead we can just sit the dishes in warm water and let the dishes soak and wash it off afterwards. When you wash your hands or brush your teeth you shouldn’t leave the water running while you’re doing these activities. As well as try not to flush the toilet as much if you can. Another thing is that we can start using water efficient showerheads that uses less water. Check for leaks and make sure everything is up to date because leaks are one of the many ways water is wasted.
In conclusion, Florida International University is an institution that should be recognized in its efforts to protect water quality, treatment practices, conservation and sustainability practices such as water recycling/reuse, rainwater management, clean water treatment and so on. FIU has proven to care about the use of water on campus and at a global scale. We suggest that FIU continues to spread awareness and education on the environmental importance and impact of water while continuing to view water as a resource rather than a waste product.
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