A Grand Flush

Monday, November 22, 2010

So last Friday was World Toilet Day and I figured that I really gotta get this post out before I get an old post. But I didn't have internet access this weekend and ... well you know how it is.

Anyways WTD 2010 was celebrated on campus with a squat-a-thon and some great trivia games by the good people of the Health Promotion team. Yours truly (although maybe less so with this creepy moustache) even gave a presentation about water related issues on campus. So this post is dedicated to 2 things: a shout out to water sanitation and a bit of info about uOttawa's water management initiatives.

I remember last year I counselled one of my student employees to do a project in her business class about the mighty toilet as one of the best inventions of all time. She got a great mark and learned something really important; mainly that half of the world's population does not have access to a toilet. In return, she schooled me about things I hadn't known about; mainly the millions of deaths related to water sanitation issues (which has killed more people collectively than all the wars in the 20th century).

A lot of people get the whole idea of water scarcity, you know - that the world is running out of potable water. But they take for granted the extent to which water is pervasive in their every day life. In Canada, the average person uses about 300 litres of water every day. Think about it, 8 litres of drinking water, 20 litres for every flush of the toilet, another 75 in the shower, not to mention all the water needed to grow your food, wash your clothes... you get the point.

When you look at the campus, we consume about 1.6 Million litres every day (or 18 litres every second) which isn't great but we are actually one of the leaders in Canada for water conservation. UBC's website published that their campus used approximately 7 times more water last year than the uOttawa campus.

There is actually nothing really special about the way we conserve water at uOttawa. A lot of the savings come from doing the basics (low flow shower heads and toilets and things of that nature), but there are one or two fun things that we have accomplished (like using black water from the Aquatic labs to cool the campus and reduce energy consumption). There has also been some serious talk about using grey water for toilets on campus rather than potable City water.

Before I go I want to mention is the concept of "What is a sustainable amount of water to consume on campus"? This is a question that the Office of Campus Sustainability was thinking about last year when we were looking for a water consumption goal for the campus. We are thinking about setting our goal at the amount of water that naturally falls on the campus through precipitation (essentially only using the rain and snow that falls on campus). I don't know how long it is going to take to get to this goal but I do know that when you put it in the context of WTD, we need to get it right before it's too late.


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