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SES Leads Water Efforts at Loyola

With the current Flint water crisis and recent reports of lead in Chicago’s water supply, water has been a hot topic over the past several months.  Though we still face water challenges on a local and national level, Loyola has been taking action to ensure quality, conscious water-use within our own campus. Here are the three ways that the Loyola is leading efforts in conservation and conscious water-use.

Commitment to plastic water bottle ban

“We as Chicagoans are very privileged to have access to an abundance of freshwater, and we should utilize that,” said Ainsley McGrath, Student Environmental Alliance member.  Over 50 billions plastic water bottles are used in the U.S but only 23 percent are recycled. In an effort to address this plastic waste as well as the privatization of water exemplified by the bottled water industry, Student Environmental Alliance partnered with Loyola’s student government to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. The decision was made in 2012, and by the end of 2013, all disposable water bottles were phased out of campus vending, dining, and catering services.

Loyola continues to stand by this commitment with the installation of water refill stations throughout the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses. Reusable water bottles are distributed to incoming students to ensure they have an alternative to buying disposable bottled water.

Conscious water-use campaigns

To maintain an ongoing conversation, SEA and SES host the annual Water Week, which celebrates water through various panels and events. “Water Week is that tap on the shoulder to remind students to participate in water conservation as individuals,” said McGrath. From panels on the intersection of water and faith to documentary screenings and discussions on water pollution, Water Week reminds Loyola to think about critically about water use.

During Water Week, as well as during freshman orientation, SES reminds students about the ways in which they can reduce their water consumption. Loyola uses 110 million gallons of water each year, mainly coming from the Loyola residence halls. SES advises students that there are small lifestyle changes to reduce water use and pollution, such as washing clothes using a natural laundry detergent, taking shorter showers, and turning off the sink when brushing teeth or doing the dishes. All of these tips aim to connect students to the Chicago community and Lake Michigan, our source of fresh water.

Stormwater management

Designing a more water-conscious campus environment begins with addressing stormwater management. Loyola's Facilities Management department has developed an intricate stormwater system that filters rainwater and reduces urban runoff. “The biggest advantage our campus has is being next to Lake Michigan,” said Aaron Durnbaugh, Sustainability Director at Loyola.  “If we can take rainwater and get it into the ground, very quickly that goes right to the lake.” The stormwater management system filters rainwater through rain gardens located along the shoreline. Green rooftops and permeable pavement reduce urban runoff throughout campus.  Loyola filters around 19 million gallons of rainwater annually, which helps prevent Chicago’s sewer system from overflowing into Lake Michigan.

Through the combined efforts of the Uncap LUC, water-use campaigns, and the implementation of stormwater management, Loyola facilitates conscious water-use, protecting this valuable resource.