Sunday, May 19, 2024

Comfort trumps basic need

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a five minute shower uses about 10 to 25 gallons of water. The average American uses about 80 to 100 gallons of water a day.

According to The Huffington Post, fixtures, such as showers and toilets, as well as dishwashers and laundry machines, contribute to the excessive usage of water. The article stated that Fluid is the new app that tracks water usage by attaching a device to a water main.

As part of the Kickstarter campaign, the app is hoping to raise awareness to people who aren’t aware of their water usage.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Dan Milz, Plattsburgh State assistant professor of environmental planning, said. “Water use tends to be invisible, which seems counterintuitive because we turn on the faucet and we see it.”

However, Milz said most fixtures will a GPF, gallons per flush, for a toilet, which is something consumers might not be aware of. If consumers aren’t sure how much a toilet uses, manufacturers stamp their toilet’s water usage per flush on the inside of the tank of the toilet bowl according to the Regional Water Providers Consortium.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, standard toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, while older toilets can use as much as 3.5 to seven gallons per flush.

“I think the app is a good idea,” sophomore environmental science and business administration major Christian Velazquez said . “It makes people more concerned with how much water they’re using.”

Milz said that the first way water conservation will work is if there is a value assigned to water.

“Water is everywhere and is inherently free,” Milz said. “I think the key points in terms of consumption that I would make are the value in water itself. We have it for everything else, but we don’t have it for water.”

The second thing that Milz said is that there needs to be limits on how much water is available. According to Milz, Chicago is limited in how much they can take from their water sources, which is Lake Michigan. Milz said that’s when conservation works, because consumers are monitoring their usage more closely when there is a benchmark placed.

“The third way is the behavioral changes. If you’re not aware of how much water you’re using, then you don’t have a benchmark to tell if you’re using less or using more,” Milz said.

Milz said that the app makes how much water is used more apparent.

According to the Huffington Post article, Fluid uses ultrasonic technology to track the speed and velocity at which water flows into each fixture of a house. The advanced technology allows a smartphone to analyze the water flow to a specific part of the house. After a consumer attaches the gadget to the water main, he or she has to connect the device to Wifi. Then the app can track water usage of the appliance.

Though the app works accurately with individual devices, one limitation is that when two appliances are used at once, the app isn’t as accurate.
“There are always going to be questions of the accuracy of the data,” Milz said.

He said that if the purpose is to simply make people more aware of their water use on a daily basis, then it doesn’t pose as much of a limitation.

Velazquez said that if people were really concerned about their water consumption, consumers wouldn’t use two appliances at the same time.

“It’s kind of remarkable that you can open a tap and get fresh water. You go to a restaurant here, and they pour you iced water,” Eileen Allen said. “Out in the West, you don’t get that because water is precious.”

As the adviser of the Campus Committee for Environmental Science at PSUC, Allen said that PSUC has gone through several measures to conserve water.
Allen said that the green fee is what the students pay for their PSUC bills.

Students can contribute three dollars each semester on their student bill, which funds student sponsored projects for making the campus more sustainable or green. It is commonly called the Green Grant.

The campus committee of student environment and responsibility has used these grants for water saving shower heads in dorm showers.
“We’ve talked about giving water bottles to incoming freshmen,” Allen said.

One idea that was brought before Allen and the committee was giving these water bottles and then putting a brochure inside the bottle that talks about water usage and saving water.

Allen said that these ways to conserve water are sometimes incorporated in some of our classes, but she doesn’t know if there’s a formal individual look at water usage.

Allen also said she thought the Fluid app would be fantastic for the future.

“Sometimes we can get these devices, like low flow shower heads, but until you actually do a measurement, how do you know how much you’re saving?” she said.

“I feel like we’re capable. Technology is going to get better, and we’ll be able to find other ways to conserve water,” said Velazquez.

Email Kavita Singh at

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