UMass, colleges issue guidelines responding to drought

Published: 8/26/2016 9:33:30 PM

With the influx of students expected in Amherst next week, town and higher educational officials are taking precautions to protect Amherst’s water supply.

The town has instituted a water ban that prohibits watering lawns, washing cars and filling swimming pools. Similar bans, mandatory and voluntary, are in place in Easthampton, Hadley, Hatfield, Northampton and Southampton.

Amherst issued the ban in time for the Sept. 3 move-in day at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — annually the town’s biggest water-use day.

Meanwhile, UMass, Amherst College and Hampshire College are taking steps of their own.

“We’re working with the town to stay aware of the situation and ensure our messages are consistent with Amherst College and Hampshire College,” UMass spokesman Daniel Fitzgibbons said. “The three of us are bringing back a lot of students all at once.”

The town, which had 37,819 residents in the last census, will see the arrival of some 30,000 college students as the academic year gets underway.

At UMass, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy released a statement urging students and staff to report leaks, limit showers, only wash full loads of laundry and turn off bathroom faucets when possible. Subbaswamy added that those living off-campus in Amherst should adhere to the town’s mandatory water restrictions.

Fitzgibbons said the guidelines will be sent to students and staff in meetings, via email, on the Residential Life website and by using printed posters, bookmarks and handouts.

Water conservation has been a priority at UMass for years. According to Fitzgibbons, UMass has cut its water use by 41 percent in the last three years.

In 2004, the university used 60 million cubic feet of Amherst water. Last year, the university only used 35 million cubic feet of water from the town.

Through building innovations and a program that recycles 200,000 gallons of Amherst wastewater every day to run cooling towers and boilers in the university’s central heating plant, UMass has been cutting water use for over a decade, Fitzgibbons said.

He added that the university purchased an ultrasound machine to detect leaky pipes, is checking under manhole covers to detect leaks and postponed a fire pump test, with the approval of the Amherst Fire Department, until the water situation improves.

Amherst College is preparing to use dishware that can be composted in Valentine Dining Hall to reduce dishwashing and has prohibited the washing of college-owned vehicles, President Carolyn Arthur “Biddy” Martin said in a statement.

The college has delayed grass planting, limited irrigation of grass on athletic fields, and has restricted student activities involving large amounts of water. Students and staff are asked to limit showers to three to five minutes, keep laundering “to a bare minimum” and wash dishes in sinks full of water rather than individually.

Hampshire College has taken similar measures, restricting watering of grass and athletic fields and the use of water for operations and facilities. The school is asking that students and staff limit frequency and duration of showers, limit clothes washing and “only flush toilets when necessary.”

Hampshire College spokesman John Courtmanche added that the college opened the R.W. Kern Center this summer, their first new major building in nearly 30 years.

“The building only uses approximately 150 gallons of water per day compared to the 1,000 gallons per day that would be used by a standard building its size,” Courtmance wrote in an email.

Hotels conserve too

The Hampshire Hospitality Group is saving water with a program that encourages guests at its hotels to opt out of daily laundering.

The program, which has been in place for about two years, encourages guests to use a printed card to indicate they would not like their sheets washed daily.

According to Marriot Courtyard General Manager Sean Welch, the initiative saves hundreds of pounds of laundry every week.

“It saves energy and water. It’s a passive way to be green,” Welch said.

The Hampshire Hospitality Group runs the Mariott Courtyard, The Holiday Inn, the Econo Lodge and the Howard Johnson Inn in Hadley. Additionally, the group heads the University Lodge in Amherst and the Autumn Inn in Northampton.


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