Water conservation takes front and center in Atlanta

As the water wars of Florida and Georgia wages, water conservation is once again hitting the limelight at Georgia State.

Jennifer Asman, sustainability program coordinator at Georgia State’s Office of Sustainability, said water conservation has recently emerged as a “hot button” topic at the university.

“It is something that has been difficult to tackle historically, but there is definitely growing interest,” she said.

Attention to water consumption in the Atlanta area is growing in relevance with Florida suing Georgia in an attempt to reduce Georgia’s utilization of water to 1992 levels.

With Georgia State’s accumulation of Downtown Atlanta’s older buildings, correct records of the water utilization by those residing in the building are difficult to acquire, according to Asman. This hiccup has slowed the process of collecting data on occupant behavior for those who choose to live on campus.

“We want to make sure we are measuring what we think and say we are measuring,” Asman said. “This can sometimes be a long process, unfortunately.”

Asman said the conversation about advances in campus water conservation are still in the preliminary phases, but several attempts to reduce consumption are already in place.

“Georgia State currently has six water reclamation areas on campus that collect rainwater to be used for landscaping,” Asman said. “We also have either installed or replaced traditional toilets with low-flow dual-flush toilets throughout the campus and have placed aerators on faucets as funding allows.”

Asman adds these new-and-improved toilets save up to 4,000 gallons of water a year.

Although water conservation efforts are returning with a vengeance, the water wars of Florida and Georgia have been ongoing for the past 20 years. On Nov. 3, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the lawsuit Florida filed against Georgia.

Florida sued Georgia on claims the “Peach State’s over-consumption was depriving the Apalachicola Bay and its oystermen,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).

During the first hearing of the case on June 2, Georgia motioned to have the case dismissed, according to the AJC. The Supreme Court struck the motion down.

The city of Atlanta and Georgia State are laboring together on water conservation efforts, according to Asman.

“I am currently working with Danita Ogandaga, who just started in Atlanta’s Watershed Department’s communications and community relations area,” she said. “I am also in touch with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and currently serve on the Climate Action Plan Committee where one of the focus areas is water.”

She also said because Georgia State consumes approximately 80 million gallons of water annually, which is a significant amount of Atlanta’s water use, these collaboration efforts are essential.

Justin Brightharp, president of the Sustainable Energy Tribe (SET) at Georgia State, said he believes the relevance of the water wars are bureaucratic in nature.

“In regard to the water wars with Georgia and the surrounding states, it becomes more of a political issue,” he said. “And we [the SET] do focus on political issues, but we’re not too well versed, and this issue hasn’t been very publicly acknowledged.”

Brightharp said he thinks interest in the water wars spiked in the mid-2000s but has since lost steam. Nonetheless, he still believes the issue holds precedence.

“It [water conservation] is an issue that we should look at because of the rivers that go through Georgia,” he said. “We get the water first before it gets to Florida, so it is an issue of conservation and being justified and fair to how much water we do use.”

For students who want to take part in preservation efforts, Asman has them covered.

“Our Summer Scholar is currently creating a Green Living Guide for students that will be available at sustainability events and published on our website,” she said. “One of the focus areas that she touches on is water conservation.”

The “Green Living Guide” was created by the 2015 Sustainability Summer Scholar Yasmin Lawson. Asman said the printed version is being finished up and the online version will be available by the end of July.

Asman also said to report leaks around campus to the university’s maintenance and operations.