Saving By The Barrel

Water is among our most vital natural resources, and a partnership between the NC State Facilities Division and students is leading to water savings on campus.

In Parents Park near Lee Residence Hall, students and staff have collaborated to install a cistern that will collect rainwater for irrigation. A cistern is a larger version of a rain barrel, which is commonly used for water conservation.

The project is a partnership between the Facilities Division and EcoVillage, a sustainability-focused living and learning community housed within Bragaw Residence Hall.

Facilities employee Cory Wyatt, left, and EcoVillage student Ross Petersen connect the downspouts that will direct rainwater from the picnic shelter roof into the cistern. Facilities Division employees Joe Myers, Tommy Best, Antonio Vazquez Hernandez, Mark Rose and James Beasley installed the cistern in preparation for the students’ work.

“The cistern will allow us to get water from the roof [of the picnic shelter] into the cistern and to use that water for plants in this area,” said Cormac Holland, one of the students working on the project.

Every fall semester, EcoVillage students are divided into teams to participate in service projects that improve the sustainability of campus or the community.

“Working with fellow students from different disciplines and perspectives gives students experience that employers are looking for,” said EcoVillage director Meghan Teten. “The projects also lead them to explore career paths or networking opportunities they may not have previously considered.”

When Teten reached out to Facilities staff about potential collaboration opportunities for the fall semester, the idea emerged to repurpose a cistern that had been used previously at another campus location.

In September, the Facilities Division installed the cistern next to a picnic shelter in Parents Park. Staff used repurposed metal shelving, stone and bamboo to secure the cistern and blend with the surrounding garden.

EcoVillage students (left to right) Ross Petersen, Celine Chan and Morgan Mase (far right) learn about cistern metering options from Mitch Woodward, a Cooperative Extension watersheds and water quality specialist in Wake County.

A couple months later, a group of EcoVillage students worked alongside Facilities staff and Cooperative Extension watersheds and water quality specialist Mitch Woodward to design the gutter system that feeds the cistern. Students also planted pollinator-friendly and native plants that will benefit from the nearby water supply.

“This will cut down on water use and costs by using water that’s free,” said EcoVillage student Ross Petersen.

Other EcoVillage service projects this semester include removing invasive species from campus, volunteering with the NC State Food Recovery Network and Feed the Pack Food Pantry, and measuring the effectiveness of educational signage about recycling.