What’s Your 20?: A Student-Led Campaign to Save Water in California

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Spencer Dunlap entered our 2015 Ocean Guardian Contest with his project, “What’s Your 20”. While he didn’t win the contest, he has continued working on and improving his project. Are you also taking strides to reduce your impact? Enter the 2016 Ocean Guardian Contest and show us how you are an environmental leader for a chance to win some great prizes! 

The lack of awareness of how severe the drought in California actually is, made Spencer Dunlap and his three fellow interns form a grassroots initiative called What’s Your 20?, at the University of San Diego (USD). Their aim is to inspire students and faculty to reduce their water consumption by 20%.

USD is a truly beautiful campus, consistently ranked one of the top campuses in the country in terms of aesthetics, but unfortunately this beauty comes at a price, as water demands for irrigation are very high, says Spencer.

It started out as a social movement focused on community outreach and education, but eventually they want to inspire the university to change its entire water consumption habits. For his initiative, Spencer Dunlap is Bodhi Surf School’s “Ocean Guardian We Admire” for the month of August!

California Drought Measures

Four years of drought

It all began spring 2015, when Spencer Dunlap took a sustainability capstone class that had the intention of making the University of San Diego a more sustainable campus. It was through this class that he received an internship, along with three other USD students. They decided to focus on issues related to water, as California is currently in its fourth year of drought. They realized that the students at USD had very little knowledge where their water came from and how far it had to travel to get there. According to Spencer, San Diego County imports 80% percent of its water from outside of the county: 50% from the Colorado River, and 30% from reserves in Northern California via the State Water Project.


Capturing and recycling rain water

Recently Spencer and his fellow interns shifted their focus to a rainwater capture project. USD currently has no means of capturing and storing rainfall, so when it rains, water runs off into storm drains and out to the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, What’s Your 20? has teamed up with several USD faculty members, as part of the EPA’s 2015 Campus RainWorks Challenge, to install rain barrels around campus.

By installing rain barrels, we will capture water that would normally run off, and be able to recycle that water to reduce our overall consumption, says Spencer.

More rain projected

USD is located in the perfect place during the perfect year for this rain barrel project: the university is in a semi-arid region (where it hardly ever rains), experiencing their fourth year of drought but they are supposed to receive heavy rainfall this winter due to El Niño. Last water year (October 2014 – September 2015), San Diego received just five inches of rain.

We are projected to receive three to four times that amount this year. One thousand square feet of roof surface can capture up to 625 gallons of water for every one inch of rainfall received, says Spencer.

The goal is to capture and store 10, 000 gallons of water. To achieve that they need to receive around sixteen inches of rain this year.

Rain water collection San Diego

Hoping to make a difference

The student-led campaign What’s Your 20? will work in partnership with the USD Changemaker Hub to achieve their goal of inspiring students to rethink their water consumption and change their daily behaviors related to water. They hope to see the effect of these individual changes reflect itself in a larger cultural change across campus.

Written by Anastasia Konstadinidis

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Bodhi Surf + Yoga

A surf and yoga camp providing community-engaged travel experiences in beautiful Uvita, Costa Rica. Learn about what makes Bodhi Surf + Yoga different and don't hesitate to contact us.

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