Freshwater crisis prompts day of conservation

Photo illustration by Jed Dean | Lariat Photo Editor

By Leigh Ann Henry

Baylor celebrated the 19th annual International World Water Day on Tuesday by limiting its water usage.

International World Water Day was created by a United Nations’ conference and first celebrated on March 22, 1993, as a day devoted to the importance of freshwater and advocating sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Baylor participated in the day of conservation by not irrigating any of the grass on campus.

“It isn’t to save money, but more to show that we are aware of the world water crisis,” Smith Getterman, sustainability coordinator at Baylor, said. “Water is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.”

Jonathan Echols, public relations coordinator for Waco water utility services, said Waco uses about 28 million gallons of water daily.

Echols said that on average, each of the 157,182 residents in the Waco metropolitan area uses about 12 gallons of water in the shower, 19 gallons flushing toilets and 11 gallons in faucet usage daily.

Dr. Larry Lehr, senior lecturer of environmental science, said there has been a severe increase in water consumption during the last several years.

“In your lifetime, water will probably be more expensive than gasoline at some point in time. It’s really a critical situation for us,” Lehr said about the current generation.

Everyone west of Interstate 35 uses water from Lake Waco and east of I-35 uses an underground water source.

Dr. Jonathan Tran, assistant professor in the religion department, said Baylor’s participation in World Water Day ties in to Christian ethics.

“On the one hand, that helps us to have a beautiful campus and that’s a way of honoring God through our relationship to creation and our participation in creation,” Tran said. “On the other hand, it takes a lot of resources to sustain things like flowers or lawns.”

Lehr said St. Augustine grass, which is prevalent in the South, tends to use a lot of water, unlike other landscaping grasses like buffalograss or gamagrass.

The water issue is so severe that county governments in Central Texas have in times of drought forbidden washing cars, watering lawns or filling swimming pools on certain days.

Lehr said Waco does not currently enforce any of these mandates, but has in the past.

“Identification for the need and hiring of Smith Getterman is a statement on the part of the university that they’re going to be proactive, that they’re going to set aside resources in skilled, trained individuals and help the university be proactive,” Tran said.

In regard to Baylor’s conservation practices, Tran said that among the faculty it’s not an issue that comes up often.

“I don’t think we’re doing much, and that’s a sad reality,” Tran said.