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Water Conservation

Position Paper Relating To Sustainable Water Management in Schools

Adopted by Longford County Council at its February Monthly Meeting held on February 26th 2008 on the recommendation of the Water Services and Environmental
Strategic Policy Committee

Context

This position paper has been drawn up in order to outline the position of Longford County Council with regard to a number of issues relating to the sustainable management of water by schools in County Longford.

Regardless of whether or not charges are being levied for water that is used by schools it is in the best interests of both the schools and the Council that unnecessary water consumption is eliminated. From the Council’s perspective there are costs associated with pumping and treating water supplies. Water that is supplied via the Council’s networks should be used in a responsible manner. By ensuring that this is done schools can contribute to the achievement of economies by the Council in supplying water to consumers. From the schools’ perspectives there are benefits that can be achieved from reducing the volume of water that is consumed. There are direct cost reductions that can be achieved with regard to metered water supplies. In addition to this there are possible benefits to be achieved by reducing the volumes of effluent that are disposed of in either public or private sewerage treatment systems.

Green Schools Initiative

Currently the Green Schools Initiative which is an environmental education programme and award scheme promotes and acknowledges long-term, whole-school action for the protection of the environment. The majority of schools in County Longford are participating in the Green Schools Initiative. The Council’s Environmental Awareness Officer is in regular contact with the participating schools. There are a number of individual initiatives that form part of the Green Schools Programme one of which relates directly to the use of water by schools. For a number of reasons schools are particularly interested in the sustainable management of water consumption. The Council, through the work of the Environmental Awareness Officer will seek to advise and guide schools with regard to efficiency measures that can be undertaken to reduce water consumption.

The four themes that are central to the Green Schools Initiative are:

  1. Climate Change
  2. Litter and Waste
  3. Energy
  4. Water

For each of these themes there is a 7 Step process that it is recommended be followed by the schools in order to effectively address the particular theme that is being dealt with.

With regard to the theme of Water the following is a summary of the recommended steps that schools should take in order to effectively manage water consumption.

1. Analyse the problem

Before starting to think about solving the problems posed by water consumption the school or group needs to find out more about the problem. Some of the following questions are suggested pieces of information to aid the raising of awareness and identifying possible solutions to the problem.

  • Does the school have a water meter?
  • Can the average water consumption per day/week/ month/year/student be calculated?)
  • Does water consumption vary at different times of the year? Why?
  • Where is the water used? How many taps and toilets are there in the school?
  • If there is no meter in the school, can the quantity of water used be estimated?
  • How often are toilets flushed per day and how much water is used by turning on taps?

2. Devise an Action Plan

Once an understanding of the problem is formed the schools can start to think of ways to solve it. Schools are encouraged to try to involve as many people as possible. By doing so and using brainstorming sessions a list of sensible ideas can be drawn up for implementation. The advice is that at first the simple "no-cost measures" should be implemented (e.g. ensuring taps are turned off properly, collecting rainwater for plants). Later the "low-cost measures" can be implemented (e.g. repairing leaks and dripping taps). Raising awareness and promoting good habits amongst teachers, students and other employees who frequent schools are identified as being priority areas in developing an effective Water Management Policy in any school.

3. Measuring Success

Schools are encouraged to plan from the beginning how to measure the success of their Water Management Plan. In order to do this it is recommended that some form of regular monitoring should be conducted. It is recommended that the details of the monitoring that is to be carried out should be detailed in the school’s Action Plan. In instances where a school has a water meter the meter is a most effective way of measuring success. Schools are encouraged to display the details and results of monitoring as this is a very effective way of promoting awareness of the need to manage water consumption.

4. Maintaining Reduced Consumption Levels

Maintaining the reduced water consumption levels can be very challenging for schools. This is partly because the reductions in water consumption are not as visible as reduced litter and waste levels. By maintaining the monitoring regime increased consumption levels can be detected and evaluated in a timely manner. Schools are encouraged to review their Action Plans on an ongoing basis as by doing so the success of the Water Management Plan can be continued. A further benefit of doing so is that the promotion of awareness with regard to the need to eliminate the unnecessary use or wastage of valuable water resources.

“No Cost” Measures

 The following are examples of “No Cost” measures that can be taken by schools in order to reduce water consumption.

  • Monitoring to ensure that taps are not left running when they are not in use
  • Awareness programme for students and others using school
  • Ensuring that water consumption during weekends and holiday periods is reduced.

“Low Cost” Measures

 The following are examples of “Low Cost” measures that can be taken by schools in order to reduce water consumption.

  • The timely carrying out of repairs where leaks are detected
  • Reducing water flows that are found to be in excess of requirements
  • Auditing water consumption and identifying the causes of excess consumption rates

Further Measures

In addition to the “no cost measures” and the “low cost measures” previously referred to there are a range of other measures that can be implemented and that can potentially result in significant reductions in the volumes of water that schools use. By their nature these measures involve the initial investment of funds by schools. In many situations the investment involved should be recovered over time by virtue of the fact that the costs to schools for water consumed should be significantly less as a result of the investments made.

The following are examples of “Further” measures that can be taken by schools in order to reduce water consumption.

  • The installation of rainwater recycling systems
  • The installation of water reduction plumbing appliances such as automatic cut off taps and low volume flush toilets

While the Council cannot be directly involved in the undertaking of these measures it will provide support by way of advice and guidance to schools that wish to explore possible means of reducing water consumption. Schools that wish to access such advice or guidance are encouraged to initially contact the Council’s Environmental Awareness Officer who will assist in any way that is possible.

Review

The position of the Council as set out in this paper will be subject to ongoing review having regard to emerging guidelines and the development of “Best Practice”. In an overall context the prevailing aim of the Council will be to endeavour to work with schools in order to eliminate any unnecessary consumption of water.