Local News

SWAT Students Share Water Conservation Message

Posted February 20, 2008 4:21 p.m. EST
Updated February 20, 2008 5:54 p.m. EST

— With drought conditions across the state and local municipalities imposing water conservation tactics, saving water is now everybody's job.

Even the students at Wake County schools are getting into the act -- holding the grown-ups accountable.

At Fox Road Elementary School, SWAT stands for Student Water Audit Team, a group of students who look for leaky faucets on school property and report them.

"I understand the drought we are in and how much damage it could cause to Raleigh," SWAT member Phoebe Ortega explained.

"If people need water, they can't get it if it's all gone."

Across the district 4,500 low-flow devices have been ordered for school bathrooms. The devices are also being incorporated in the design of new schools. Some new schools will even have waterless urinals.

Bob Bittner, Wake schools physical plant director, recognizes the value in the changes. "Water is a  precious resource just like electricity and natural gas and it does have its limits and it's just good stewardship to do that."

At Heritage Middle, Millbrook Elementary and Martin Middle, rooftop cisterns collect rain water to be used for toilet flushing and irrigation.

Although the district spans the entire county, all schools have implemented the Stage 2 water restrcitions set down by the City of Raleigh, which means no outdoor watering. That has athletic fields all over the district turning brown. The SWAT team knows the sacrifice is for a greater good.

Phoebe explains, "People who are bigger than us sometimes don't even understand that we are in a drought."

Wake County schools used 229 million gallons of water last year. They expect the combined conservation efforts to save almost 33 million gallons.