‘April Showers’ Campus Water Saving Competition

Jacquelyn Ottman Posted by Jacquelyn Ottman.

Jacquelyn is the founder of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., which helps businesses develop and market the next generation of products designed with sustainability in mind.


‘April Showers’ Campus Water Saving Competition

(Image: Hansgrohe International)

Living on the east coast of the United States, it is pretty easy to forget the importance of clean and abundant water. We have plenty of reservoirs, a seemingly constant supply of fresh clean water running essentially free from the tap, and we don’t have water sanctions. It is so easy to take this water for granted, until I read the news about sewage contaminated water in Southeast Asia, the drought in California and the Southwest, or water privatization in Bolivia. It is in solidarity with these communities that I hate to waste water, and I have worked with my college community to do the same.

About the April Showers Water Reduction Contest at Smith College

Water saving Shower Timer

Using a shower timer is a good way to save water.

In April of 2014, I worked with another student at Smith College to lead a water reduction competition that we called April Showers. We thought targeting shower times was a simple way for busy Smithies to change their habits, and one that could have a big impact. In fact, every minute in the shower uses approximately 2 gallons of water, so cutting back a ten minute shower to seven minutes can have a 30 percent decrease in water use.

For the month of April, we challenged our peers to take a shower in 7 minutes or less. We supplied each bathroom in every house (there are 35 on the Smith campus) with shower timers and made charts for students to check off each day they took a shower in less than 7 minutes or did not shower. The incentive was a free trip for the whole house to Herrell’s Ice Cream in downtown Northampton, well known for their free birthday sundaes and incredibly long lines.

At the end of the month, we tallied up the check marks and awarded the house with the most check marks the long-awaited prize. The winner was revealed at our Earth Week festival. For any Smithies out there, Sessions House won.

A Small Step for Raising Awareness about Conserving Water

April Shower Water saving

Recruiting participants to the April Showers water saving competition at Smith College. Photo: Julia Graham

This was a small step to raise awareness about water consumption and to encourage Smith students to think more about how their actions impact the global environment. It is so easy to get caught up in the “Smith bubble,” which is in some ways very stimulating but in others very isolating. It is often hard to keep up with global news besides what we hear about in classrooms or in organizations of which we are a part.

We hoped that this competition would be a simple way for Smithies to engage with global environmental issues. A shorter shower may seem like a drop in the ocean, but where else do we start?

Tips for Engaging Others

1. Use Powerful Visuals

Numbers are important to reducing water usage, but sometimes it is hard to get excited when hearing that ‘one minute less time spent in the shower will decrease water consumption by 30%’. Instead, offer someone something they can visualize, like the amount of water used in a 10 minute shower uses the equivalent of forty 1-gallon milk jugs!

2. Get Competitive!

Most people are driven to be better by the pressure of friends, and, in the case of our April Showers contest, housemates. The incentive goes up even more when there is ice cream involved.

3. Educate and Engage

Make sure you let people know why it’s important to conserve water, beyond just cost-cutting measures. This is a great time to talk about drought and climate change as well.

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