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Conservation - Water
Water is one of the primary components of life on Earth. It makes up approximately 66% of the mass of the human body. Although 80% of the Earth is covered with water, only 3% of the total is drinkable and two-thirds of that is locked up in ice at the polar caps. That leaves just 1% of the world’s water supply available for use by all of the land-dwelling plants and animals and the human population. Water is a very valuable commodity that should be used wisely. As part of Amherst College’s commitment to conservation, the following strategies are being employed:
The College supplies washing machines in each of the dormitory buildings throughout the campus. During the summer of 2005, all of the conventional washers were replaced with energy-saving/water-conserving front-loading washing machines. The new machines use 11 gallons less water per wash and use only 1/2 the amount of detergent while increasing the load capacity by 30%. In addition, the washers extract 33% more water from each load, thereby reducing drying time, which in turn saves energy. The new washers are estimated to save approximately 580,000 gallons of water per year throughout the campus.
Beginning in 2005 Amherst College started its conversion from standard shower heads (4 gallons/minute) to low-flow aerating shower heads (1.5 gallons/minute) in the athletic facility and in some dormitories.
Cooling-tower water treatment generally involves the addition of several chemicals that control bacterial growth and inhibit mechanical degradation. As a result of evaporation and the chemical action, solids precipitate out of the water and must be eliminated from the system through the blow-down function. With the use of the Dolphin system, the chemical treatment is no longer needed and the blow-down is performed less often. This results in an estimated 15% reduction in water usage at each cooling tower.
An automatic field irrigation system has been installed to water all athletic fields at the south of campus and at Pratt Field. The system provides water to several zones (between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.) for five to fifteen minutes per increment on a daily basis or once every three days (depending on current weather conditions). There are also rain sensors that disable the system in the event of a substantial rain. The previous process was to haul water cannons out onto the fields throughout the day and soak them before moving on to the next spot. This provided uneven watering and wasted large amounts of water to overspray and evaporation because the process was completed throughout the day. It is estimated that the irrigation system provides in excess of 50% water savings over the manual method.
The campus is primarily heated and cooled by energy provided by steam produced at the central power plant and distributed throughout the campus in underground steam lines. The steam produced condenses at the various pieces of equipment throughout the campus and returns to the plant to be reheated/converted back to steam and redistributed to the campus. Minimizing the losses in steam and condensate throughout the system is vitally important in water conservation. Typical condensate return rates in the area run at 80% to 85%, while we have achieved (through an aggressive water treatment, trap maintenance and condensate line replacements program) a 90% condensate return. This amounts to a savings of approximately 8,000 gallons of water per day.