Student senate looks to plumbing to promote a greener campus

Senior BFA drawing major Denise Wellbrock refills her water bottle at a filling station in the Student Union.
Senior BFA drawing major Denise Wellbrock refills her water bottle at a filling station in the Student Union.

What do the Student Government Association and the university’s restrooms have in common?

Last week, they shared a lot more than one may think, as a SGA senator asked the university to place more filling stations on water fountains across campus, as well as dual flush valves on the university’s toilets, in order to make campus a more environmentally friendly place.

“When I’m walking across campus, I’m always looking for ways to help improve the university,” said Jarrod West, the SGA senator and sophomore undeclared major. “And, I see that those get used a lot… So, I thought that was a good way to make the university more green.”

West asked the university to make these changes in a SGA resolution, which passed March 24.

He hopes the water bottle filling purifications system will help cut down on the amount of plastic bottles used across campus, by offering a place to refill and reuse bottles.

He also hopes the addition of dual flush valves to toilets across campus will help conserve the amount of water the university uses.

NKU’s Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management Larry Blake worked with West in devising the resolution.

“This is a good idea,” Blake said. “But there is always a hesitation with the costs.”

The price to retrofit a water station to include one of these water bottle filling purification systems costs around $1,200, according to Larry Blake, with the filters costing $400-$1,600 per station.

While Blake said he fully supports this latest SGA initiative, due to the relatively high fee, he said working toward this goal could be a somewhat slow and gradual process.

Blake said these new water bottle filling purification systems will be used on all water fountains that are replaced in the future, as deemed appropriate due to things such as usage and proximity to other fountains.

Blake said that each water bottle filling station could save about 13,000-39,000 bottles from being thrown away annually.

As far as the dual flush valves for toilets are concerned, Blake explained that the university recently replaced their toilet plumbing systems in the past few years with a low flow system. Due to this, Blake said replacements with dual flush valves would be made on a case-by-case basis and would occur over a longer period of time.

However, Blake said that if NKU were to change all of the valves right now, the university could save a total of 20,000-30,000 gallons of water per year.

“Overall, for the university, the payback is the fact that we’re being more environmentally friendly here,” Blake said. “There is really no dollar payback here.”

Senior political science and economics major and Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students leader Lauren Gabbard thinks this is a great move for SGA.

“I think this is good for the university to direct their funds toward more sustainable practices,” Gabbard said. “I hope this enthusiasm and urge to be more sustainable is acted upon and doesn’t just die away.”

To West, it just came down to little things he see’s he has the ability to change on campus, as a SGA senator, to help better the university.

“As a university, I think you want to hold yourself to a higher standard,” West said. “It’s just a small thing we can do that can have a really big impact.”

The resolution passed unanimously at the March 24 SGA meeting. The next step for the resolution is to go through Faculty Senate.