Water Conservation and Reuse Workshop at Georgia Southern University

On September 16, 2011, the Georgia Campus Sustainability Network (GCSN) hosted a Water Conservation and Reuse Workshop at Georgia Southern University.  With support from National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology program and the GCSN Steering Committee, approximately 35 participants from 16 different campuses came together for peer-to-peer learning and networking, with a focus on water conservation.  Of the 16 campuses represented, five had never participated in a GCSN event before.

Water Conservation and Reuse Panel

We began our day with light refreshments, introductions, and a round of “speed-networking” to help participants get to know each other one-on-one.  The networking session was followed by presentations on campus water conservation and reuse initiatives from representatives of the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia, Agnes Scott College, Emory University, and Georgia Southern University.  Common themes of the presentations included rainwater harvesting for irrigation, native and drought-tolerant landscapes, grey water capture and reuse for flushing toilets, low-flow water fixtures, green roofs, permeable surfaces for recharging underground aquifers, and other storm water management best practices.  Presentations were followed by a question and answer session with all the presenters.

Georgia Southern University's Bioswales

After lunch, workshop participants enjoyed a tour of Georgia Southern’s campus that highlighted water conservation efforts by the campus.  Our first stop on the tour was the new bioswales on campus.  This low-lying area had plagued the campus grounds crew for years, since water would collect there and make mowing nearly impossible.  By incorporating native wetlands plant species into the drainage area, mowing has been eliminated, the appearance of the landscape has improved, and this very beautiful part of campus is actually serving as a filter, helping to clean the water coming from the nearby parking lot.

Permeable Surfaces on Campus

The tour continued, featuring several examples of permeable surfaces on campus, drought-tolerant landscaping, and ponds surrounded by wetlands vegetation to treat and capture storm water runoff.  Our workshop concluded with a quick walk around the wetlands preserve at Georgia Southern University’s Center for Wildlife Education.  It was amazing to see how Georgia Southern and many of the colleges that presented have approached water conservation as an opportunity to not only save money and resources, but also as a way to enhance the beauty, function and appeal of their campus.

Storm Water Retention Ponds with Wetlands Vegetation

All in all, the event was a great success!  With new connections made, practical initiatives and advice shared, and a better understanding of how to implement water conservation and reuse initiatives on campus, participants left feeling inspired and empowered to improve water management practices on their own campuses.  Many expressed interest in following up with each other and staying connected through the Georgia Campus Sustainability Network.  We look forward to continuing to build campus to campus relationships, share best practices and resources, and foster collaboration for water and resource conservation across the state!