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!