Dream Schools

LAUSD is taking smart steps to save water.

Today a guest post from Susie Santilena, a member of Heal the Bay’s Science and Policy department:

I graduated from Middle College High School in Los Angeles Unified School District nearly a decade ago, and I’ve had nightmares about returning ever since. In one vivid scene, I come back and end up taking a pop quiz I didn’t study for. Or there’s the one where after years of thinking I graduated, I find out I’m missing a single credit that prevents me from getting my diploma and nullifies all of the college degrees I’ve received since.

After being haunted by these crazy visions, who knew that my work as a Water Quality Engineer at Heal the Bay would bring me back to LAUSD this month? Or that my return would have such a dreamy ending?

On Dec. 14, I testified at an LAUSD School Board meeting on behalf of Heal the Bay in support of a resolution that is sure to save the district a lot of water and a ton of money. That’s great news for all of us.

The LAUSD Water Savings Resolution aims to reduce water consumption by 10% compared to district usage in 2009. The board hopes to save around 640 million gallons of water per year — enough to supply 4,000 people with their annual water needs.

The resolution requires all new installations, retrofits, and fixture replacements for new and redeveloped LAUSD properties to be water efficient. That means the installation of better-designed sinks and toilets, waterless urinals, and water-wise irrigation systems by June 2011.

Schools are also supposed to use  recycled water to flush toilets and irrigate where feasible. Because California is always on brink of a water supply crisis, it doesn’t make much sense to continue to flush drinking water down the toilet, right?

The measure was five years in the making, and the current economic crisis definitely aided in its passage. LAUSD had an average water bill of $672,427 per month in 2008. With pressure to cut spending but not jobs, the district has been forced to find ways take advantage of its tremendous opportunities for energy and water savings.

A recent study found that 7,389 water fixtures in the district are eligible for water conservation retrofit incentives of $300 per toilet and $500 per urinal.

As I approached the LAUSD boardroom, I felt a sense of pride instead of dread. It was great to see my former school district making strides toward a sustainable water future in Los Angeles. School Board Vice President Dr. Richard Vladovic, Board President Monica García and Board Member Nury Martinez sponsored the measure and deserve credit for seeing it through.

My high school math teacher, Mrs. Boime, encouraged me to join the Heal the Bay Club. We conducted campus cleanups and learned about the storm drain system. It’s gratifying to come full circle, with my work at Heal the Bay leading to a better environmental future for today’s students.

See you at the drinking fountain!

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