Monday, October 4, 2010

Water Conservation: Conservation through Bathroom Visits

DePaul has taken significant steps in its efforts to conserve water on campus through various means, such as installation of low flow showerheads and faucets in its residence halls. Other initiatives include installation of dual flush toilets in the LEED certified building at McGowan South. In addition to dual flush toilets, bathrooms at DePaul already have motion activated water faucets, which also help reduce the use of water. However there is another method to significantly reduce water consumption through bathroom activities at DePaul which has been considered.

DePaul’s Facility Operations website indicates that DePaul also hopes to install waterless urinals on its campus sometime in the near future. Waterless urinals such as those provided by the Waterless Company help to conserve as much as 20,000 to 45,000 gallons of water per year, depending on daily use. Unfortunately, currently in the City of Chicago, it is against city regulations to have waterless urinals due to city building codes that require commercial buildings to have copper piping in indoor plumbing. Waterless urinals require non copper piping or other forms of plumbing material such as pipes made from Polyvinle chloride (PVC). At one point, waterless urinals were installed at City Hall, and were eventually removed due to urine buildup behind the wall caused by corrosion in the piping. The urine buildup caused a stench in the bathrooms which should be prevented by a gel like seal in the urinal if the pipes are not corroded. Proper maintenance and cleaning would prevent odor and cleanliness issues. Other reasons the City of Chicago may resist changing codes to allow waterless urinals in the city may be due to resistance from plumber unions. Installation of waterless urinals would result in less work for plumbers as the new urinals would cut down on the work required to fix and maintain water related products. The City of Chicago and surrounding areas are extremely lucky to have an abundant source of fresh water that comes from Lake Michigan. Although Chicago may have such a rich supply of water, the source is not infinite. It is estimated that about 1 billion gallons of water is pumped from Lake Michigan on a daily basis for use in the Chicago region alone! It’s unimaginable the amount of water that could be saved by installing waterless urinals around the city, especially in commercial and high traffic buildings.

Although schools like DePaul are unable to install waterless urinals, other schools around the country have taken the steps to conserve water on their campus by installing these water saving bathroom fixtures. Schools like the University of California at Santa Barbara have already installed over 50 waterless urinals on campus which will lead to water conservation up to 2 million gallons of water per year. Other schools such as Hartford Community College have installed waterless urinals on their campus and will continue to replace conventional urinals with waterless urinals as renovation projects get underway. The desire to install waterless urinals at DePaul exists, however it will need the support of the City of Chicago to champion the efforts of water sustainability and conservation on campus as well as within the city.

Posted by: Julio C. Puentes

Image Credit: Lab Safety Supply

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