‘Slow the Flow’ is a Go at SUNY New Paltz

The Office of Sustainability is launching a “Slow the Flow” campaign across campus this week, aimed at reducing water usage in two main spaces, Hasbrouck Dining Hall and residence halls, according to Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten. 

Beginning on Oct. 15, repairs will begin on the Catskill Aqueduct which supplies water to both New Paltz as well as New York City. “Slow the Flow” is an extension of water conservation efforts that have been slowly implemented over a long period of time. It urges students and dining hall staff to be aware of their usage by informing them of the best ways to reduce usage.

Mitten said that while this campaign is just starting, water reduction efforts started years ago and encompase many areas of campus development, including new construction. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings are now required to install low flow faucets and dual flush toilets. Buildings Management has also been assessing leakage in pipes for many years. Back in 2006, it was discovered through this examination that fifty-five thousand gallons of water were leaking from pipes per day. The problem has since then been resolved. 

One aspect of the initiative includes plans for an increased social media presence from the campus sustainability office, in addition to signs that everyone will begin to see outside of residence halls. Student ambassadors have also been promoting the cause at a table outside the lecture center at the farmers market that happens on the main academic concourse each Thursday. Emily Davison, a fourth-year student and one such ambassador who I spoke with at the Slow the Flow table, says that “ two to three hundred people” have already taken a pledge to conserve water. Moreover, on multiple occasions students have returned to the table to express to the people working there that they have started self- monitoring their usage through taking shorter showers. 

Progress will be tracked on a week to week basis to assess how the campaign is going. But this isn’t simply an environmental movement: Mitten made it clear that Slow the Flow is also a competition between the different halls, and results will be posted on the  campus office of sustainability website as well as in the dining hall. 

“We need natural resources, and specifically water, to sustain life,” Mitten said. 

Even while living in a place where water is plentiful, to think about how we are using the resource so future generations can experience the same benefits that we have today.

Another issue involves the relationship between water scarcity and larger environmental issues, such as the health of the environment and the effects of climate change. Professor Daniel Lipson, who teaches about environmental politics, echoed Mitten’s sentiment.

“Future generations will need to have adequate quantities of water in aquifers as well as clean drinking water,” Lipson said.

As weather becomes more erratic, dry summers could disrupt well-users sources of water. Mitten hopes that the campaign will encourage environmental mindfulness with members of the community. 

“You can’t go through life and just use resources, to not care about where they came from,” said Mitten.