RAHWAY, N.J. — Students at Rahway High School here believe in water conservation. Based on the water audit they conducted, the students concluded that their school will reduce its water use by two-thirds — up to 1.6 million gallons of water and approximately $6,500 in cost a year — by upgrading bathroom plumbing fixtures with water-conserving faucets, urinals and toilets.

Members of the Rahway High School Social Action Club and Rahway Water Champions conducted the water audit in two of the high school bathrooms and presented their findings to school officials, American Standard executives, the Rahway school board, and representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Rutgers University this July.

“The most impressive part of the students' presentation was their passion for protecting their local water resources and making a positive mark on our world,” said Katie Barnett, environmental specialist at the NJDEP. “In just a few short months these students learned about the importance of water in their lives and community, took an active role in changing their school's ‘water footprint’ for the better and helped educate the community about water conservation.”

After the students’ presentation, American Standard accepted the student's request to donate more than $60,000 worth of water-saving products to the school, so every bathroom in the school can be updated with water-efficient plumbing fixtures. The New Jersey Water Savers program, a pilot water conservation program that addresses the increasing demand on New Jersey’s water supply, provided a grant for the labor costs of installing the donated fixtures in the two bathrooms students are conducting water audits in.

“After auditing our school I was surprised how much water we were using,” said Paloma Ferreyra, a junior at Rahway High School and member of the Rahway Water Champions and Rahway High School Social Action Club. “We were not only wasting water but also money. With the new fixtures we would not only save water but also money that can be used for something else in school.”

Tom Flanagan, owner of Flanagan's Plumbing, Rahway, N.J., installed the donated fixtures in the two bathrooms this summer, and will continue to retrofit the other bathrooms during the school year.

“The new fixtures will use much less water than what was being used with the original fixtures,” said Flanagan. “This is going to be a huge improvement for water savings. The new urinals and toilets have sensor heads. Everything is much more efficient.”

Initial audit

Before the students could conduct the initial water audit, they had to learn how to read the indicators on the bathroom fixtures.

“After we knew how to determine the amount of water each fixture used we calculated the amount of use they had per day,” said Emera De los Santos, a junior at Rahway High School and member of the Rahway Water Champions and Rahway High School Social Action Club. “So we basically counted the amount of people that used the bathroom, and with the information we collected we drew an average and did further calculations. If the fixtures did not have an indicator on them we would estimate that the toilets used 3.5-gpf, and in order to figure out the amount of water a sink fixture used we would use a timer and measuring cup.”

Based on the water audit conducted by the students, the following water savings percentages were estimated:

  • Toilets: 63% water savings using new water efficient 1.28-gpf toilets based on current toilets using 3.5-gpf.
  • Sink faucets: 46% water savings using new 1.5 GPM faucets based on current faucets using 2.78 GPM.
  • Urinals: 95% water savings using new high efficiency 0.125-gpf urinals based on current urinals using 2.5-gpf.

According to De los Santos, the Rahway Water Champions were really surprised with the water audit results because the amount of water consumption was huge for just the 10 months that school is in session.

When asked what her reaction was when she found out American Standard was donating toilets and faucets for the bathrooms, De los Santos told CONTRACTOR she was really excited since she was the one who asked them to donate all of the fixtures.

“It was just a really exciting moment for me,” said De los Santos. “I was really nervous, but when they said yes I was very thrilled and felt like the main purpose of the entire program had been accomplished.”

“The efforts of these students coincide well with American Standard’s goal to educate consumers that water conservation can and does begin at home — and at school,” said Don Devine, president and chief executive officer of American Standard Brands. “As a New Jersey employer, we are pleased to help a new generation learn the science of sustainable buildings.”

As part of this water conservation project, students will conduct a water audit on all the new fixtures during the beginning of the school year to find out how much water is being saved via the water-conserving products. The students also plan to measure user satisfaction of the new fixtures.

Water conservation programs

Rahway Water Champions was created by the high school’s Social Action Club, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program and the New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors. Its objective is to take action in the school and community to promote water efficiency and publicize the EPA's WaterSense program.

De los Santos said she became involved with the Water Champions Program because she felt that it was extremely important for her to make a difference in her community. She also served as a junior intern earlier this year at the NJDEP.

“The best aspect of being a member of the Water Champions Program is the overall impact that this program has had on all the members and the impact it has on the people who learn about water conservation through this program,” said De los Santos.

“By being an integral component of the overall project, the students not only want to have water saving technologies in their reach, but also take further behavioral actions such as turning the faucet off while brushing their teeth, taking shorter showers and becoming their households ‘water use regulator’ by asking their family members to do the same,” said Barnett. “Engaging the students truly begins to change the water use ethic of a community and that is what will ultimately make a lasting difference on our environment and world.”

In addition to conducting a water audit on all the new plumbing fixtures in the two bathrooms and presenting the results, Rahway Water Champion students will continue to be involved in community outreach programs promoting water conservation and demonstrating the many ways individuals can save water. They also plan to conduct water audits for three local businesses.

Rahway, N.J., is one of five pilot communities across the state participating in the Water Savers Program. Other communities participating are Belmar Boro, East Greenwich, Egg Harbor Township and Livingston. The program identifies best practices in water conservation, encourages local stakeholders to change their water use behavior and identifies ways to save New Jersey taxpayers money. American Standard is supporting the New Jersey Water Savers program in all five pilots, which includes tests on various government structures such as schools and municipal buildings.

“These results can provide a good case to support the cost-effective steps we can all take to mitigate New Jersey infrastructure costs related to our water demand,” stated Devine. “Using the high efficiency toilets, urinals and faucets supplied by American Standard, we're confident that the other government buildings will achieve a minimum of 20% water savings, and believe it can be significantly higher."