Moving in, students absorb lessons on dealing with drought

RAs at drought board
Blaine Friedlander/Cornell Chronicle
Luke Bianco '19, left, and Katie O'Brien '18 unveil a lobby bulletin board at Mary Donlon Residence Hall that shows students how to conserve water during a drought.

With local creek water levels historically low as students arrive on campus to start the semester, Ithaca’s 2016 summer drought has become a teachable moment.

At Mary Donlon Residence Hall on North Campus, resident advisors Katie O’Brien ’18 and Luke Bianco ’19 unveiled their freshly finished bulletin board – right next to the high-traffic elevator – touting easy suggestions to conserve water. Tips included: shorten showers to 3-5 minutes; don’t let water run while brushing teeth, shaving or washing hands; report leaky faucets or toilets; and wash full loads of laundry in cold water.

Like other resident assistants across campus, O’Brien and Bianco held welcoming floor section meetings where the drought was part of the agenda.

“The students want to help and do their part. At my first meeting, we spoke about conservation and discussed more ways to save,” said O’Brien.

Okenna Oruche, assistant residence director at Donlon and a graduate student in engineering, said he and other RAs around campus are looking for creative and fun ways to convey the serious nature of the drought. The ideas, though not all fomented yet, range from simple discussions to playing cheesy ’80s pop songs to time showers.

Cornell Dining cooked up ways to use less water, and the university has eliminated trays in many of its dining rooms already. The dining system is turning off equipment that uses a constant stream of running water and – for approximately two weeks – will use disposable dishes, cups and flatware. The award-winning dining system will still wash pots, pans, serving dishes and implements, said Gail Finan, director of Cornell Dining.

Suppliers are prewashing fruit and vegetables to save the university water, Finan said. “We’ll be using disposable plates and flatware for the first two weeks of the semester. Then, we will reassess the water situation to make a decision about the subsequent weeks.”

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