By Allyson Noenickx
On Thursday, Sept. 8, Worcester issued a Stage 3 Drought Emergency. Decreased rainfall this summer has prevented Worcester’s reservoir system from recovering from a dry 2015. Under the Stage 3 restrictions, all outdoor water use has been banned, and new landscaping is strongly discouraged. The College of the Holy Cross has met with the Worcester Water Department to discuss how the College can help reduce its water consumption.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, Worcester’s reservoir system was at 55 percent capacity instead of the average 82 percent capacity heading into the fall months. As of Aug. 23, the year-to-date average rainfall for the reservoir system was 23.45 inches—significantly below the annual average of 32.79 inches. According to the City’s website, “The situation is getting very serious, and we are now at the point of deciding which water uses have priority. All outdoor water use is now banned. Water users are asked to find alternative water sources whenever possible.”
In an effort to comply with the restrictions issued by the city, the College is taking action to reduce water consumption across campus. “We have been in communication with the Worcester Department of Public Works to develop a strategy to maintain the campus as best as possible through this difficult time,” stated John Cannon, director of facilities operations. “The Stage 3 drought is a very serious situation. We have not been through anything like this for many years, but we can help if we pull together as a campus and eliminate areas of water waste. The College’s goal is to conserve water, while maintaining a healthy and safe environment for the Holy Cross community.”
Significant measures have been taken to reduce the amount of water used for groundskeeping. All irrigation systems on athletic fields that use city water have been shut down. Fitton Field and the baseball field have well water available and will be watered on an as-needed basis to ensure the safety of student-athletes. In addition, all campus fountains have been turned off an effort to curb unnecessary water use.
Other departments across campus have been taking measures to reduce their own water usage. Dining services staff are now turning off dishwashers when not in use, thawing products by refrigeration instead of running water, among others. Environmental services has also cut back on water consumption in floor-cleaning practices by dry mopping.
In recent years, the College has also taken efforts to increase sustainability while minimizing water usage. Both Figge Hall and Smith Laboratories are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. Elsewhere, the College has been transitioning to low-flow shower heads, metered and electronic sensor faucets, and low-flow toilets.
Students can also help minimize water usage on campus. Cannon warned that running toilets and even dripping faucets can waste a very significant amount of water in a short time period.
Facilities staff are watching for any water leaks and repairing them as quickly as possible. They ask that students and faculty report any water leaks, running faucets, or toilets immediately so they can repair them promptly. Any running water issues can be reported to facilities during normal work hours—weekdays from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.—and public safety after hours.