University hopes to raise water conservation awareness

A new art installment in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) has viewers staring at jugs – 111 of them.

The pyramidal sculpture, created by USF alumnus John Morgan, was placed in the MSC Monday and was constructed using 111 empty gallon-sized jugs. The number represents the amount of water consumed daily by an average individual in the Tampa Bay region, said Christian Wells, director of the Office of Sustainability.

But the 111 empty jugs are also an illustration to inspire action on behalf of a new USF effort.

The University’s partnership with Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud) started this semester, kicking off a campaign called “Every Drop Counts!” The program aims to raise water conservation awareness.

“Because of the size of our institution (USF), it’s imperative we become more mindful of our behavior towards the environment, especially with regards to water consumption,” Wells said. “We have done a tremendous amount to become a sustainable campus. Water conservation is one area that we need to work on a lot.”

Previous attempts to conserve water have involved removing trays, which required water for rinsing, from the food court.

Despite being only one of two universities to receive a gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), a n Association for the Advancement of Higher Education program, results released Friday, USF scored poorly on the section correlating to water conservation, earning 0.81 of the seven possible points.

The campaign is working to improve in that section.

“Awareness is key,” Wells said. “The University is doing its best to keep up with infrastructure and technology, but that infrastructure and technology are useless if people aren’t aware of their behaviors. This ‘Every Drop Counts’ is really an awareness campaign.”

USF alumna Dorian Morgan, a Swiftmud consultant, had the idea to begin water conservation efforts at the University in 2007.

“There are resources (at USF),” she said. “There are so many students. We could really do something.”

Morgan first took the project to a public relations course at the University, who in return consulted on how to initiate it. From there she said she hoped to educate students about water consumption.

“Honestly, I think (the biggest problem is) a lack of awareness as to how much water they’re using,” she said. “When we started research and talked to students in focus groups, for a lot of students, they know green is a big thing. Everyone knows they should be green and they should conserve, but they don’t know about specific things. Our campaign puts a lot of emphasis on the gallons used.”

The jug sculpture in the MSC lobby is intended to drive this number home.

Morgan said that students often don’t realize that in a minute of leaving a faucet running, four gallons of water are wasted. “Every Drop Counts” places emphasis on the gallons lost daily.

“I think people are people, and we all need water to survive,” Wells said. “This is relevant not only to students, but alumni, faculty, staff, administration … the last place you want to see contradictions is in institutions of higher learning. We’ve really got to walk the talk on this.”

The campaign will feature a video contest, a pledge campaign between fraternity and sorority houses and visits from “Ripply the Water Drop,” whose presence at the Bull Market is intended to remind students about the efforts to raise awareness about consumption. The initiatives will continue throughout the spring semester.

Morgan said that Swiftmud hopes to gain support by being “liked” on Facebook. Their goal is for the “Every Drop Counts to USF Bulls” page to reach 1,000 fans by the end of the semester. The page had 13 “likes” as of Monday night.