2017, CINCINNATI, OH, USA
Matthew Murphy of Oak Hills High School knew that he wanted his project to be both simplistic and effective, with the main focus to be his school’s bathrooms. Matthew’s high school building is older and hadn’t been renovated in a very long time, making the bathrooms a prime candidate for a water conservation project.
He found inspiration when he took a school field trip to the Ohio River with his AP Environmental Science class. There they discussed the issue of combined water sewer systems in the Ohio River Watershed; essentially when there is too much rain, the sewer system bypasses the water treatment plant and deposits a ton of pollution into the Ohio River. This outing helped to establish the primary goal of his project: reduce the total amount of water that Oak Hills puts into its combined sewer systems as a means to reduce the total waste put into the river during periods of heavy rain.
Matthew’s solution was to replace the faucet aerators in all the bathroom sinks around the school. An aerator is the part of the sink faucet where the water comes out. The old aerators in the school used 2.2 gallons of water per minute, equating to a total of 360,000 gallons of water over the course of 95 days. (2,650 people x 2 trips a day x 20 seconds x 2.2 GM x 95 days). The new aerators that he purchased for his school only used 0.5 gallons of water per minute, this in turn should only use 80,000 gallons of water over 95 days. (2,650 people x 2 trips a day x 20 seconds x 0.5 GM x 95 days)
This project not only has the ability to help the school conserve water, it also will allow the school to save roughly $2,000 every 95 days. In turn, he plans to propose using these dollar savings to hold a mini watershed project in his high school. Discussing water conservation and rewarding innovative thinking will help future classes of students create a more environmentally sustainable school. Matthew’s hope is that year after year, students continue the work to improve the school’s sustainability.