FGCU installs low-flush toilet valves to save on water

FGCU is trying to get a handle on its water use by changing the way people on campus flush toilets.

Troy Kelly, assistant director of maintenance and operations for physical plant, thought it would be a good idea to install low-flush valves on Florida Gulf Coast University toilets after he noticed a similar system at the Naples Botanical Gardens’ bathrooms.

Kelly believes bringing the valves to the university was “the right thing to do.”

Since then, 50 valves have been installed in women’s restrooms in six buildings at FGCU: Campus Support Complex, Fitness Center, Alico Arena lobby, Outdoor Sports Complex, Student Union and Academic Building 5.

Kelly hopes to retrofit all of the older bathrooms with the green valves and low-flush technology. He considers it a worthwhile investment, but feedback, such as a tangible reduction in the utility bills, will be deciding factors on whether or not that will be possible.

“It may be kind of hard to nail that (information) down, but we might need a good year of observation,” he said.

Megan Barr, office assistant for physical plant, said the valves were installed to see if it was possible to reduce water consumption on campus. Barr believes installing the dual flush valves keeps the university true to its mission of sustainability.

“Whatever we conserve now we will be able to use later,” Barr said.

Kathleen Crawford, a coordinator for environmental health and safety at the university, said she’s glad the university is trying to “stem the flow” of use.

“Water doesn’t save us as much money as saving electricity does, but water is such a valuable resource. We can see with the current fiasco that’s happening in the Gulf, how important our planetary water is,” Crawford said.

According to some preliminary data on water use at FGCU, demand for water resources has increased by about 5 percent in the last year.

Crawford is surprised the number isn’t higher. There are 11,105 students, 988 faculty and staff members at FGCU and that number is expected to grow.

“Our population has increased more than that (5 percent) on campus. I’m rather excited to see what our numbers will be once they have finished converting all the toilets,” she said.

It may seem silly for some to put so many hopes on neon green toilet handles, but for Crawford, who sits on the Planning and Budgeting Council’s Environmental Sustainability Committee, basic conservation efforts can save the planet.

“One drop of water may not make much difference, but many drops of water come together and suddenly we have a pond, a lake, or a river,” Crawford said.

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