Water is the third theme for schools undertaking the Green-Schools programme.
Most of us are guilty to some extent of taking water for granted. Water comes out of taps; it goes down drains; and in between we use it to brush our teeth or do the dishes. However, saving water is not just about saving money. Water is an important resource and a sufficient supply of clean water is essential to the health of both people and the environment. All of our food production and agriculture needs water. The raw material may appear to be plentiful, but worldwide, and even in parts of Ireland (particularly at certain times of year), it is an increasingly scarce resource.
As with the previous themes, there are four steps to tackling the theme of water:
1. Analyse the Problem
Before you even start to think about the solution you need to find out more about the problem. Does your school have a water meter? If so, can you calculate the average water consumption per day/week/ month/year? (and per student?) Does water consumption vary at different times of the year? Why? Where is the water used? How many taps, toilets, radiators etc. are present in the school? If there is no meter in the school, can you estimate the quantity of water used? (Number of times toilets flushed per day, usage of taps, etc.)
2. Devise an Action Plan
Once you understand the problem you have to think of ways to solve it. Try to involve as many people as possible. From that brainstorming list work out the sensible ideas. As always, you should start with the simple "no-cost" (i.e. ensuring taps are turned off properly, collecting rainwater for plants) and "low-cost" (repairing leaks and drips) solutions. Raising awareness and promoting good habits should always be your first priority.
3. Measuring Success
You must plan from the beginning how you will measure the success of your water management. This should include some form of regular monitoring, which will be detailed in your action plan (i.e. how/when/who will carry it out). If your school has a water meter than this will be by far the most effective way of measuring success. Otherwise, you may need to make estimations of usage through observations and calculations. Either way, make sure to display the details and results of your monitoring – graphs and charts are excellent for visualising changes over time. You cannot manage what you do not measure!
The most difficult thing is maintaining the reduced water consumption levels, in particular as it is not as visible an issue as litter and waste. You will know from your regular monitoring if and when changes in water consumption (up or down) occur. As time goes on you may need to adjust your action plan to help maintain the success of your water management, and to continually promote awareness.