Off Beat: B.G. schools’ water conservation efforts flush with savings

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With all the gallons of water involved, it probably qualified as an in-depth discussion.

Or you could just call it an opportunity to go with the flow.

It started when the Battle Ground School District recently received $850,000 to upgrade its lights and retrofit its plumbing systems with low-flow devices. The district should save $122,700 in water and energy in just the first year, said Mary Beth Lynn, Battle Ground’s assistant superintendent for finance and school operations.

We know that conserving energy is a real money saver. But it was the dramatic cuts in water usage that got the e-mail discussion going among a Columbian reporter and district officials.

In the fine print, the state’s grant document says that the new urinals will use one pint of water per flush. David Klemetsrud, the district’s maintenance supervisor, was asked how much water the existing urinals use per flush. His reply: One to two gallons per flush, depending on the model.

That’s a savings of at least 7 pints of water per flush — and 15 pints when compared to a two-gallon urinal.

The reporter was skeptical about the two-gallon citation: “I’ve been in a few men’s rooms in my time. … Are you sure the one- to two-gallon figure isn’t for toilets?”

Actually, a standard toilet can use up to five or so gallons per flush, and today’s low-flow models can reduce that to 1½ gallons.

Lynn, the assistant superintendent, had an entirely different reason for her own “Are you sure?” question. She turned around the reporter’s comment from the viewpoint of “having never been in a men’s room … .”

Out in the cold

A Columbian reporter recently wrote about a science project at Yaquina Head, a leading tourist attraction on the Oregon coast. Many of the tourists — especially the younger ones — were wearing flip-flops, shorts and tank tops or T-shirts. And the brisk wind off the Pacific Ocean cut right through them.

The Oregon State University researchers were wearing jackets, stocking caps and gloves. It’s a lesson his students have to learn, OSU assistant professor Rob Suryan said, although it can depend on their hometowns.

“The ones from the Willamette Valley, they’re the ones we have to warn the most that it’s cold out there. We’ve had to loan them clothing to get them through the day,” Suryan said.

“The ones from California think: ‘Oregon. Cold.’”

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.