There are thousands of school campuses across the United States, and they come in all shapes and sizes: small classrooms, large lecture halls; separate buildings spread out on a large tract, multi-story structures squeezed into a dense city block. Some may have gymnasiums, auditoriums or cafeterias; some may not.

But one constant found in almost every education facility, in addition to students and teachers, is the school washroom. Every day, millions of students, staff members and visitors use school washrooms and in the process consume millions of gallons of water. For students concerned about conserving resources and for educators committed to teaching students about the value of conservation, the school washroom is an area brimming with opportunities.

Schools and universities can take advantage of more-efficient fixtures and equipment, and step up their maintenance efforts to reduce the consumption of water in their facilities’ washrooms. Conservation efforts not only can help students learn to be more aware of their environment, but also provide cost savings through lower utility bills.

The biggest target

For education institutions looking to reduce water consumption, washrooms offer the most opportunity. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a report, "Water Efficiency in the Commercial and Institutional Sector: Considerations for a WaterSense Program," estimates that washrooms account for 45 percent of the water use in an education facility. Landscaping accounts for 28 percent; cooling and heating accounts for 11 percent; kitchens account for 7 percent; laundry uses account for 3 percent; swimming pools account for 1 percent; and other uses account for 5 percent.

Agreeing that cutting water consumption is a worthwhile goal is the easy part. Figuring out how to persuade people to follow through and change their behavior is a little more challenging. Technology advancements have enabled facility managers to circumvent the obstacle posed by those unaware of the value of conservation or unwilling to do their part for the environment.

New kinds of toilets, urinals, faucets and showerheads are available that significantly reduce the amount of water used. For school facilities, many of which have several washrooms and many toilets, urinals and sinks, the water savings can accumulate quickly.