Are you asking yourself, do my actions make a difference? When we talk about water conservation in South Jersey, every household's, every business' and every municipality's actions are felt in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer and within South Jersey's crown jewels, the New Jersey Pineland National Preserve. As noted in the linked article below "the internationally recognized Pinelands Biosphere Reserve is the largest area of open space between Richmond, Virginia and Boston, occupying some 22 percent of New Jersey’s land area." (Stutz 2017). The rare wetlands the Reserve host have been feeling the impacts of over withdrawl.
Greetings fellow water savers! We here at the Littoral Society have been working on an exciting ongoing project with Ocean City High School for the past few months that we thought you might be interested in hearing about, as we enter the next phase of the program. Thanks to a Pollution Prevent grant from the U.S. EPA Regional 2, in partnership NJDEP, we have had the chance to work with the students of the Ocean City High School S.E.A Club (Student Environmental Association) on a program called “Water Champions.” This is an integrated school program that gives students the knowledge and understanding to challenge community partners to conserve water. Three sessions gave students the basic knowledge needed to teach community partners about the water issues that face their community; stressed aquifers, salt water intrusion, residential and commercial water use, and the skills needed to help community partners make a difference in their community, including training on both residential and commercial water audits using the Ocean City High school and their own homes as test. Students now get to challenge community partners to make the difference by upgrading fixtures or appliances in their business as well as more importantly influencing behavior change in their employees and their customers. Funds from the grant allow willing partners to receive new water efficient fixtures or appliances for free, but the hard part is getting these same partners to be the change maker and promote water conservation behavior changes in their community.
Trained students have started to make their way into the community, with their paper, pen and calculator on hand to start conducting water audits in local business. Six of the students graduated to become Water Champions interns, ready to take up the charge of water conservation in their community. With their newfound knowledge about how to perform a water audit, the interns, with a set of water use criteria, selected several local businesses to reach out to and encourage to participate in the water conservation challenge, which includes a free water audit performed by the interns, water use report with water conservation recommendations, and installation of selected water efficient upgrades based on the recommendations. Using the criteria, the interns selected Fourth Street Café, a small local eatery, conveniently located down the road from the high school, and The Flanders, prominent local hotel, which just so happens to host the Ocean City High School prom.
The interns were split up, with the hopes to divide and conquer both locations in one after school outing. Fourth Street Café turned out to already have a strong water conservation ethos, being both economical and environmentally beneficial to the cafe, many water efficient fixtures were already installed. With smart and conservation minded practices in place, such as this innovative strategy of placing unused ice into one of the dishwashing sinks at the end of the day so that by the next morning the sink will already be half filled with the melted ice – students are going to be hard pressed to think of additional ways for the café to become a Water Champion restaurant! Though current regulations have reduced toilet water use significantly (for all new replacement toilets tank to be 1.6 gallon per flush), more efficient WaterSense®-certified toilets with a 1.28 gallon per flush tank could allow Fourth Street Café to be on their way to become a Water Champion of their community. The Café deserve kudos for their environmentally friendly consumer behavior – in addition to water conservation, they also use beeswax coated paper straws, in lieu of plastic straws!
Finishing up the Café lickety-split, the interns working there joined efforts with the remainder working on The Flanders water audit. The Flanders is not just a hotel, but houses a restaurant inside (hum… could an upgrade of their current 1.5 gallon per minute pre-rinse spray values to a new water efficient 1.28 gallon per minute be in their near future, we will have to see the results of the audit), with multiple hotel rooms on the above floors. Interns had to visit several types rooms check out the fixtures installed. First their higher-end rooms, which were basically small apartments – with several bedrooms, a living room, and their own kitchen! Interns had to investigate each fixture to find labeling which included the fixtures water usage rate. Next up the interns visited the hotel event center, which was going to be host to the Ocean City High school prom that very Saturday! This section of the hotel is quite old; this was certainly reflected in the bathroom fixtures, which were definitely not water efficient – including some very oddly-shaped old urinals. Lastly, the hotel’s outdoor water use was assessed, identifying a small landscaped area out front with both sprinklers and drip irrigation.
The intern’s works is not done yet – the group will need to analyze the data from the two water audits, assign appropriate recommendations for each business, and determine which fixtures would save the most in water use and present these findings to Fourth Street Café and Flanders. The business selected upgrads will be tracked all summer with the assessment of water use change after the upgrade. In the fall, interns will again interview the two businesses, collecting information on the new fixtures functioning and efficiency and other water conservation behavior changes completed. Using the collected data, interns will be tasked with creating case studies for the two businesses that can be used challenge other businesses to take the Water Champion challenge. More outreach, more water audit and hopefully a more water wise Ocean City!
The next step however will be to present their findings to the Ocean City Board of Education next Wednesday, where the interns will talk about what they’ve learned and their recommendations for how the school can be more water efficient – including where they think the school should spend the grant money to get the most water savings. We want to make sure that the school itself is ‘walking the walk’ by being a model of water efficiency to the community!
Happy World Water Day! Back in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly voted to officially make March 22nd World Water Day, and it has been celebrated every year by people all around the world ever since. Although over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only about 3% of that water is fresh and over 2/3 of that fresh water is locked up in the glaciers, meaning that less than 1% of the Earth’s water is accessible, fresh water! There are millions of people all around the world who must walk for miles every day to get fresh water, which is often polluted in some way and makes them sick. We should appreciate that we live in a place where we have easy access to clean water just by turning on the tap.
Here, in South Jersey, over a million residents and visitors get their drinking water from the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, who use about 35 BILLION gallons of water from it each year! The Kirkwood-Cohansey is a superficial aquifer, meaning that it is exposed to the surface at low points such as wetlands, rivers, streams, and lakes. Because of that, even small changes in the water table, caused by excessive pumping out of water, can cause significant impacts on these water bodies, especially the freshwater wetlands and small streams of the Pinelands. This can lead to negative impacts on the delicate balance of these ecosystems and the plants and animals that live there. These rivers also flow out into our bays where they have a major impact on the fish and shellfish who rely on these areas, which have a lower salt content than the open ocean because of the freshwater flowing into them. In addition, the Maurice River, an officially designated “wild and scenic” river enjoyed by thousands of people for recreation every year, relies on the Kirkwood-Cohansey for most of its base flow. These issues are only getting worse as the region becomes more densely populated and as we see more dry weather spells. Most of New Jersey is now in a drought, and although South Jersey is currently better off than North Jersey there is a chance that this will not last as we get into the heat of the summer months.
The American Littoral Society is piloting several education initiatives this year to encourage local schools and residents to save water, so that we can both continue to have clean drinking water and protect our local ecosystems. As part of the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Initiative, through a grant from the William Penn Foundation, we started with Vineland High School, Cumberland Regional High School, and Bridgeton High School. Vineland and Bridgeton are two of the three major urban centers of Cumberland County, with Cumberland Regional serving many of the rural communities.
After giving the students a base of knowledge about where their water supply comes from (the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer!) and the challenges our region would face if we use too much of it, the students made models of groundwater using soda bottles, sand, gravel, and clay. They then got to see water percolating down into the “aquifer,” including the difficulty it had in passing through certain mediums over others. And who doesn’t like to play in the dirt for school? Afterwards, I was the worst guest speaker in the world because I gave them homework! They had to perform a water audit at home to figure out how much water they use daily by tracking how often and for how long they took a shower, flushed the toilet, ran the sink, did the dishes, etc.
It is also important to connect our above ground uses of water to how it effects the aquifers, beyond just our direct use of water to drink, clean, and grow food. Changes in the landscape that come with development and urbanization have unintended consequences on what happens underground as well. Roads, parking lots, buildings, and other man-made structures are impervious surfaces that don’t allow rain water to percolate into the ground and recharge the aquifer. Instead, we get stormwater runoff that picks up all kinds of pollutants, drains down into our storm drains and out into local streams and often ultimately the ocean. In a natural environment, more than half of rain water ends up recharging the aquifer and only about a tenth becomes stormwater runoff. In a highly urbanized environment, these statistics are almost reversed. Combine that with the fact that urban centers tend to use more water simply because they house more people, and you have a recipe for significant stress on aquifer supplies! We tried to display this principle with the students by doing an activity that simulated stormwater runoff and “green infrastructure” using sponges. The sponges in the activity represented rain barrels, rain gardens, cisterns, riparian buffers, and other green infrastructure projects that limit stormwater runoff and encourage groundwater recharge. The negative effects of impervious surfaces can be alleviated with smartly placed green infrastructure, which soak up excess stormwater before it reaches storm drains. The students at Cumberland Regional High School also walked around the school to come up with ideas for where we could place green infrastructure projects, like rain gardens, rain barrels, tree plantings, etc. The weather was beautiful for the first class but the second got caught in the rain a bit, although at least it was appropriate weather for the topic!
After learning about aquifers and stormwater management, and tracking their water use at home, the students then performed a water audit at their school and will use this data to estimate how much water the school currently uses and how much they could save by switching to more efficient products. Vineland High School estimated that the school bathrooms use 19,862 gallons of water per day! That’s almost an Olympic sized swimming pool every month, just from the bathrooms! And by switching their old fixtures to WaterSense-certified products they could save 12,624 gallons per day!
Building off our work with Vineland, Bridgeton, and Cumberland Regional High Schools with the William Penn Foundation, we have also been piloting another program for coastal communities. Through a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, we are working with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to bring the “Water Champions” program to Ocean City High School. As coastal communities like Ocean City use water from their aquifers, salt water from the ocean is drawn into the resulting void left by the retreating water levels. This eventually contaminates the water supply, leaving it too salty to drink. The City of Cape May was already forced to build the east coast’s only desalination plant, an expensive and energy-intensive last resort that the rest of coastal South Jersey should hope to avoid.
The cheapest and easiest fix for this problem is simply to cut water waste and use the water we do need more efficiently, which is why we focused on water-wise behaviors and had the students track their own water use at home, to estimate how much they use on an average day. Simple changes can really add up, like for every minute you take off of your showers you save 2.5 gallons of water, fixing leaky toilets can save 30-50 gallons per day per toilet, and not running the faucet while you brush your teeth can add up to 2,400 gallons of savings per year! One of the girls in the class wants to be an environmental journalist, so we are planning on using this interest of hers to spread the word to the rest of the students at the school, perhaps through a video on the morning announcements.
After the students perform a water audit for the school, they will use this data to come up with a proposal for one thing that the school could change that would have a significant impact on water use, such as retrofitting a particularly high-use bathroom or changing the sprinkler system for the football field. Part of the Water Champions grant will then be used to put their proposal into action! Then some of the students will do outreach into the community to local businesses that are interested in receiving a water audit and recommendations for retrofits of their own. This program should be a great way for the next generation to both learn about the importance of being good stewards of our water, and put that knowledge into action in their communities!
Happy 2017 from everyone at South Jersey Watersavers and the American Littoral Society! South Jersey Watersavers has been busy planning for the next stage in our water conservation outreach. Some notable highlights from 2016 include:
These are just a few of the highlights from the year, and South Jersey Watersavers is only getting started! In addition, the American Littoral Society has just re-launched its new website. Please visit www.littoralsociety.org to check it out! As always, thank you for supporting water conservation in South Jersey!
It's that time of year again! Horseshoe crabs are making their way onto NJ beaches to mate and lay their eggs. Every year they come up from the ocean to spawn. This coincides with the annual migration of several shorebird species, including the threatened species the Red Knot. Horseshoe crabs are such an important part of ocean ecology and to the Delaware Bay. Did you know that...
Horseshoe crabs are incredible creatures that are a valuable part of the Delaware Bay ecosystem. Remember, a horseshoe crab can't hurt you and they are not poisonous. If you see a live horseshoe crab turned over on the beach, carefully turn it over by gripping its sides, NOT the tail, and point it in the direction of the sea. Horseshoe crabs return each year to the bay in May and June, so they are a welcome sight for the beginning of summer.
If you are interested in participating in the American Littoral Society's horseshoe crab tagging program, please visit our website, http://www.horseshoecrabtagging.org/
Spring is here! (as of March 20th). Time for us to finally get outside, take a breath of fresh air, and sweep away the staleness of winter. We begin to think about spring cleaning and all the projects we want to tackle outside. Here at South Jersey Watersavers we are starting to plan for spring projects and Earth Day events. One thing that comes to mind is how much water we are using for our lawn and garden maintenance.
Typically, having greenery around the house or apartment is always a good idea-lawns and plants help to soak in excess rain, and they are so beautiful to look at this time of year. But it takes a lot of water to keep everything green! Or does it? Here are some simple tips you can follow in order to save water-you can can have that beautiful lawn and landscape without using excess water.
Enacting some or all of these tips can save you money on your water bill, and reduce your impact on drinking water supplies. Remember, regardless of whether you have city or well water, if you live in South Jersey, you are likely getting your drinking water from the Kirkwood Cohansey aquifer. We need to ensure that there is enough drinking water for everyone, and making small changes such as these can have a big impact. So, get from fresh air, begin planning your dream gardens, and save our water! Happy Spring!
Happy New Year from SJ Watersavers! 2016 is the year for water. Now, more than ever, we need to conserve our water resources to ensure that there is enough for everyone. If the droughts and warm weather patterns from last year are any indication, water is becoming more and more precious. So what can we do? What are some New Years Resolutions we can make for water?
Let's make 2016 the best year yet for our water in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer!
Hello! My name is Meredith and I work for the American Littoral Society. We focus on coastal conservation and protection.
In 2014, my group partnered with local environmental groups to form SJ Watersavers. SJ Watersavers focuses on the important Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, the largest aquifer in South Jersey. This aquifer supplies the drinking water of millions of people. SJ Watersavers hopes to protect the aquifer from overuse through education and outreach.
How so? Through this blog and website! We are working hard to teach South Jerseyans how to protect their valuable drinking water through simple water conservation. Water conservation can be something as easy as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth (saves you 11,000 gals/year!) or as complicated as updating your water using appliances. Through this blog, I hope to provide you with some great ideas on how to save water and show how you can make a difference for the environment in South Jersey. Check out the SJ Watersavers website for events, projects, and more! Thanks for caring about our environment and drinking water!
As Thanksgiving draws near, I remain thankful for something I use everyday-water. The Kirkwood Cohansey aquifer provides drinking water to millions of people and businesses. This year, I have learned much about this large aquifer and the different challenges facing our drinking water. As we prepare to spend time with our families and give thanks for all we have, I am focusing on reducing my water use for this year and beyond. Water is becoming more and more scarce, so becoming aware of how valuable water is and how we can protect it is essential.
While we are planning and preparing for Turkey Day, I thought I would include some simple ways to save water in the kitchen. These tips can help you reduce your personal water use, save money (just in time for the busy holiday season!) and help take some of the stress off your local aquifer. For the KC Aquifer, the biggest source of water use is domestic, or home use. If everyone who lived in the KC aquifer cut back their daily use even by 20 gallons, we could see a large reduction in the amount of water withdrawn from the aquifer each day.
Some easy ways to save water in the kitchen-
So, while you prepare for this time of gratitude and reflection, please consider reducing your daily water consumption and reflecting on additional ways to cut back water use. Even small changes can have a huge impact!
Don't forget to sign the 20 gallon challenge to show your commitment to water conservation and the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer!