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Administration - Sustainability at Lehman College

Water and Stormwater Management

Water is an indispensible resource that has many uses, including recreation, transportation, hydroelectric power, agricultural, domestic, industrial, and commercial uses. Water supports all forms of life and affects our health and economic well-being. The average American uses 140 to 160 gallons of water per day.

Water is a finite resource. Although more than 75% of the earth's surface is made up of water, only 2.8% of the Earth's water is available for human consumption. The oceans contain the remaining 97.2%; however, the high salt content of seawater renders it unsuitable for most purposes, and desalinization is a costly, energy-intensive process. We often take the amount of fresh water available on Earth for granted. As the world's population increases, water consumption increases.

In many areas, water resources face an uncertain future. During times of drought, most individuals and larger consumers of water readily cut back on water use. However, because water is inexpensive, there are few incentives to conserve water during times of non-drought conditions. Water is essential to life, health, and economic development; depletion of water resources has profound social, public health, and economic impact.

As important as water conservation is, the fate of wastewater and stormwater is also an important component of water sustainability. 70% of New York City has a combined sewer system, which transports both wastewater and stormwater to wastewater treatment plants. The remaining 30% (primarily in coastal areas of NYC) has separate sewer systems that transport only stormwater directly to area waterways. Melting snow and rainwater enter the combined sewer system and wastewater treatment plants. During times of severe rainfall, the treatment plants risk being exceeding their capacity, and stormwater and wastewater are released directly into the surrounding waterways.

Much of an urban environment consists of impervious surfaces (roads, sidewalks, buildings) that do not absorb stormwater as unpaved ground does. Further development paves over open spaces, often leaving stormwater no place to go except onto the paved surfaces. Stormwater causes roadway flooding, back-ups of sewage into homes, discharges of pollutants from roads and other hard surfaces, and discharges of untreated sewage.

Water Sustainability measures can be divided into two parts: conservation of water and water resources, and management of wastewater and stormwater.

Lehman College – faculty, students, staff, and infrastructure – is a consumer of water and a generator of wastewater. Rain and snow fall upon the campus and produce stormwater that enters the sewer system. Water sustainability efforts at Lehman College seek to limit water consumption through equipment upgrades (automatic faucets on sinks and flush meters on toilets), and identification and prompt repair of leaking water fixtures. Future water conservation efforts at the College include installation of waterless urinals. Existing water meters will be replaced with transducers to track water use. Groundwater has been used to irrigate the quad area of campus since 1980.

The New Science Building will have a number of water conservation features and greywater and stormwater retention/reuse features. A constructed wetland will provide bioretention and biofiltration of stormwater. See the Science Hall page for more information on its sustainability features.