Campus Life

Extension receives grant to enhance water-conservation education

University Park, Pa. -- Most people have no concept about how much water they use in their homes, according to an expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Many people use water like we have a limitless supply, but we don't, said Bryan Swistock, water resources senior extension associate who recently oversaw the creation of a number of educational resources on water conservation.

"Water is a finite resource," he said. "But like any other commodity on this Earth, it won't last forever if we don't conserve and use it wisely."

The amount of water American homes use is staggering, Swistock said. Every person uses about 70 gallons of water each day. About nine gallons of that daily water use is caused by leaks in toilets, faucets, hoses and swimming pools.

An informative water-conservation booklet titled "Water Conservation for Communities" was developed by Cooperative Extension water resources educators with funding from the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center. The center is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey. The funding also allowed Extension to revamp its water conservation website to communicate the benefits of water conservation and house additional videos and publications.

The "Water Conservation for Communities" publication is extremely informative, Swistock said, targeting officials and residents served by community water systems. "It explains conservation in the context of Pennsylvania weather and water resources," he said. "The publication outlines how water is wasted, why it is important to stop the waste cycle and what communities and individuals can do to save water."

The booklet features a chart that outlines correlation between saving water and lowering electricity costs, and how much money a consumer can save in a year.

The publication is available online at to all who want tips on what can be done to save water, or for those who want some background information about the issue of water conservation. "The website has been redesigned, and we added some interactive elements to it," said Swistock. "We added four videos that explain how and why to conserve water in the home."

The website also features a worksheet for homeowners to answer questions about their current water use and to see if they could save money and water by installing conserving appliances, such as front-loading washers and low-flow faucets.

"It's a snapshot of water use," said Swistock. "Consumers can see exactly how much they could be saving."

Cooperative Extension has a team of educators who go to farm shows, fairs and workshops to teach people about saving water. "They give lectures and presentations and set up information stations to make people aware of what they can do to reduce the amount of water they use," Swistock said.

Their efforts seem to be making a difference. Surveys of program participants found that 62 percent planned to take steps to conserve water. Specifically, 41 percent intended to install a water-saving fixture or appliance, 59 percent hoped to identify and fix leaks around their homes and 47 percent expected to install a rain barrel to save rainwater that runs off of their roofs.

A new booklet about water conservation is available. Click on the image above for a digital edition. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 19, 2010