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SFS makes use of extra water in latest project with grant

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Savannah Douglas | The Daily Wildcat

Rain water from Monday’s rainfall filled the UA Community Garden, located at the north end of the Highland Avenue Parking Garage. Students for Sustainability recently received a $26,000 grant to build a water cistern atop Highland Avenue Parking Garage, which can capture up to 28,000 gallons of water at one time.

The top floor of Highland Avenue Parking Garage is purported to be able to have the capacity to catch 28,000 gallons of water at one time, and now some students are trying to make use of that extra water.

Students For Sustainability has received a $26,000 grant for a project to build a cistern on top of Highland Garage from the Green Fund, which comes out of students’ tuition.

Julia Rudnick, the program coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, said that UA’s campus uses both active and passive rainwater harvesting methods.

“Active systems are where you use barrels or tanks to collect rainwater runoff,” Rudnick said, “and passive systems are those that you make where you slow the water down so it drains into the ground [to dig] trenches — holes — slowing the water down, basically.”

Maddy Bynes, the committee chair of SFS at the time they were writing the grant, said that the goal of the Highland Avenue Parking Garage project is to put a cistern on it for active harvesting.

“Cisterns are a way we can divert rainfall,” Bynes said. “Cisterns store it for later use.”

At least some of that water will go toward UA’s community garden located near Highland Garage, she said.

Bynes added that SFS chose Highland Avenue Parking Garage as the site of the project because its location and size lends itself well to water harvesting.

“Highland [Avenue Parking] Garage is basically a great place to catch rainwater off of,” she said. “It is a nice large area of campus that is basically uncovered.” Bynes also said SFS received the $26,000 grant entirely from the Green Fund in order to pay for the cistern.

Rudnick added that the Green Fund only funded one tank, but there was a possibility that it could fund more in the future if all goes well on this project.

As for where the Green Fund gets the money for projects such as these, Rudnick said it does come out of students’ tuition from a “carveout.”

“It is like a fee, but you won’t see it on your bursar’s bill,” she said.

The carveout is $24 per year for students or $12 per semester, Rudnick said.

Chet Phillips, ASUA sustainability program coordinator, said UA students should care about our water use because of our desert environment.

Rudnick said students living in a desert environment need to think about where water is going to come from in the future.

“Normally we’re dry, dry, dry, right?” Rudnick said. “So it just makes sense.”

Bynes added that water harvesting is important because it makes use of an otherwise wasted resource.

“Water harvesting in general is important because … we’re in a desert, so we don’t have a lot of water to use,” Bynes said. “But water harvesting takes a resource that we wouldn’t be able to use, and we can use that.”

Nathan Walworth, an environmental sciences senior, said he believed that diverting some money towards sustainability is the right thing to do.

“Ethically … I feel we should reuse what we have, especially with what we do in Tucson,” Walworth said. “I don’t understand how anybody would really mind unless they had problems with where [the money] was being used elsewhere on campus.”

For those students who disagree with the project, Bynes said it isn’t about being “politically [or] environmentally friendly.” Rather, it’s about longevity.

Bynes said SFS is not being wasteful with the Green Fund’s money — it’s being smart about it.

“It’s not really a waste of money,” she said, “because we’re using water in more intelligent ways than we were before.”

—Follow Max Rodriguez @njmaxrod


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