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Water Systems on School Grounds
Clean, fresh water is a precious resource that is often wasted in many urban areas, including school sites. Most developed areas today are designed to waste water, funneling rain down gutters and drain pipes rather than allowing it to soak into the ground where it can recharge the water table. In addition, the large amount of pavement on streets, parking lots, and playgrounds contributes to the degradation of water quality. When rainwater flows across paved surfaces, it often picks up pollutants and particulates and then carries them into the nearest lake, river, or ocean.
Many schools around the world are trying to reverse this trend and teach their students about improving local water systems. Some schools study the flow of water across their grounds and look for ways to improve water quality and infiltration. Vegetated swales and wetlands are sometimes built on school grounds for these purposes. Other schools seek to conserve water on their school grounds by: installing low-flow water fixtures in their bathrooms; using drip irrigation systems rather than conventional sprinklers; planting drought resistant "xeriscape" gardens; and capturing rainwater in cisterns and rain barrels for future use on school gardens, trees, and other planted areas. A few schools have taken water purification efforts to another level, and have installed systems that process gray- and blackwater used by their buildings' sinks and toilets. Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment and "living machines®" are two methods used by these schools.The list of resources below will provide information about water systems on school grounds and help you to get started on related projects of your own. The list of case studies below includes examples of some of the water projects that are already working at schools around the world.
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Resources for Water Conservation & Purification
|School Name||Project Description||Location|
|Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Humbolt State University||Website has good explanations of water system principles. Onsite projects include: low flow appliances, a composting toilet, a graywater marsh, and a rainwater catchment system.||Arcata, California, USA|
|Crenshaw High School||Project proposal for extensive water system retrofits for this school. Proposal written by an organization called TreePeople. Ambitious proposal includes several cisterns, shower graywater system, pervious paving, vegetated swales, vertical gardening. Description also includes cost/benefit analysis.||Los Angeles, California, USA|
|John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona||Good description of the water cycling systems at the Center for Regenerative Studies. System includes: a wetland, ground water recharge, capture of rainwater, and aquaculture.||Pomona, California, USA|
|Casita Center, a technology, science, and math magnet school||Xeriscape demonstration garden (drought resistant/low water use)||Vista, California, USA|
|Colorado Xeriscape Demonstration Gardens||Great list, compiled by Xeriscape Colorado, Inc., that includes descriptions and links to many xeriscape gardens in Colorado.||Colorado, USA|
|Los Padillas Elementary School||Xeriscape garden and "Zuni waffle garden" (traditional planting technique for water conservation in an arid environment)||Los Padillas, New Mexico, USA|
|Santa Fe Children's Museum||This museum has incorporated a variety of water awareness projects into its grounds including: water play areas, a water garden, water fountains, and an extensive stormwater catchment system with cisterns, biofiltration, and vegetated swales.||Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|The Willow School||School design incorporates environmentally sensitive building materials, techniques, and landscape, including a rain water catchment system for stormwater management and water re-use. The school connects their curriculum to their site, in many ways.||Gladstone, New Jersey, USA|
|Darrow High School||Residential school for 90 students in the Berkshire Mountains that replaced their sewage septic system with a Living Machine®. Their Living Machine® system treats 8,600 gallons per day of the school's wastewater and has been integrated into their curriculum.||New Lebanon, New York, USA|
|Triangle School Wastewater Treatment Facility||Extensive constructed wetland for wastewater treatment, built on the site of a former school. The school site is currently used by university faculty and students from North Carolina State University, and will soon also be used by local public schools via the internet.||Chatham County, North Carolina, USA|
|Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, Oberlin College||
College environmental studies building has a living machine® to treat its wastewater.
|Oberlin, Ohio, USA|
|John Jacob Astor Elementary School||Elementary students, educators and the community helped design and build a vibrant learning garden that helps clean and filter stormwater runoff from what was formerly 8,500 square feet of asphalt. This project was installed in Spring 2005, in collaboration with Urban Water Works.||Portland, Oregon, USA|
|DaVinci Arts Middle School||
Middle school with an extensive stormwater catchment system, cisterns, a pond, bioremediation swales, stormwater gardens, and a living machine. The Living Water Garden project at this school was created in collaboration with Urban Water Works.
|Portland, Oregon, USA|
|Sulzberger Middle School||The Mill Creek Watershed project studies an urban creek that runs underground near the school site, and combines environmental education with community development. Established in 1995, the project is in collaboration with students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA|
|South Burlington High School||Classroom living machine® program||Burlington, Vermont, USA|
This private boarding school for 140 students in 9th-12th grades is located on a forested 1,200 acre campus. The school has an impressive wastewater treatment living machine® that processes 38,000 gallons of the school's wastewater per day.
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|Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin, USA|
Water System Projects at Schools around the World
|Baltic Sea Project||Environmental education program coordinated by UNESCO Associated Schools Project, focused on regional water quality issues around the Baltic Sea. Includes related project listings for many schools in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden.||Baltic Region, Europe|
|Boyne River Natural Science School||Facility used by schools in the Toronto, Ontario area for outdoor and science education. Living machine processes some of the site's blackwater from the toilet system.||Shelburne, Ontario, Canada|