Sam Knuth was having a hard time getting enough H20. With no drinking fountain on his residence hall floor, he had to fill his water bottle in the dorm’s bathroom sink. The faucet was short, his bottle was tall. Sam actually had to bend his water bottle to squeeze it under the faucet, making it a crumpled mess. (See picture, above.) Not to mention, he was a little freaked out by whatever germs could be making contact with his water bottle. “I was like, ‘This is so dumb. Let’s do something about this.’”
Meanwhile, on the other side of campus, Judy Breuer, a community health major in the College of Education and Human Service Professions, was conducting a survey to see how much water students were drinking. A member of UMD’s Student Health Advisory Committee, Judy found that many students living in the dorms were either not drinking water or were buying plastic water bottles. Survey participants sited a lack of water fountains as the reason. They explained that, like Sam, they either couldn’t fit their water bottle under the bathroom faucets or they were dissuaded by the idea of filling it up from the same sink that people were washing their hands. “There was a lot of concern about them not being able to fill their water bottles or being concerned that it’s not sanitary,” explains Judy.
One day Sam happened to overhear Judy talking about her survey. It was like chocolate meeting peanut butter in the old Reeses Peanut Butter Cup commercials. Sam anecdotally saw the need, Judy qualified that need with her survey. Says Sam, “This is something that bridges the divide. The issue’s right there, it needs to be solved for everybody who lives in the dorms.”
Sam, a marketing major at the Labovitz School of Business & Economics, is a member of Net Impact, a campus organization dedicated to coming up with solutions that satisfy environmental, social, and economic needs. Net Impact and the Student Health Advisory Committee began researching a solution together, meeting with the departments of Sustainability, Environmental Education, Housing, and Facilities Management. “We were bringing people together from all over UMD,” says Sam.
During the 2012 spring semester, the group applied for a $3,000 grant from the Institute on the Environment to fund the project. They got it. The only problem? It wasn’t enough money.
The $3,000 grant paid for about 12% of the total project cost. Enter UMD Housing. Initially, Housing agreed to pay for two faucets for every one that was funded by the grant. In the end and in line with Goal Six of the strategic plan, which talks about using UMD’s infrastructure to support the campus in a sustainable manner, UMD Housing paid for $25,000 of the $28,000 project. “Housing and Residence Life was supportive of this project because it was a win-win opportunity for the department, for student residents, and for the student members of Net Impact,” says John Weiske, director of Housing and Residence Life.
A total of six bottle filling stations and 66 goose neck faucets were installed. One water filling station counter read 1,200 uses in the first week of school, an average of 171 uses a day. This is hydration made possible by the students.
Mindy Granley, director of Sustainability at UMD, gives all the credit to the Sam, Judy, and their team. “Without students bringing forward the issue and finding the money, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Story by Lori C. Melton, September, 2013