Bay Tree Design's EcoSchool Design®


Visit the website for Sharon Danks's exciting new book about green schoolyards!

Water Systems on School Grounds

Clean, fresh water is a precious resource that is often wasted in many urban areas, including school sites. Most developed areas today are designed to waste water, funneling rain down gutters and drain pipes rather than allowing it to soak into the ground where it can recharge the water table. In addition, the large amount of pavement on streets, parking lots, and playgrounds contributes to the degradation of water quality. When rainwater flows across paved surfaces, it often picks up pollutants and particulates and then carries them into the nearest lake, river, or ocean.

Many schools around the world are trying to reverse this trend and teach their students about improving local water systems. Some schools study the flow of water across their grounds and look for ways to improve water quality and infiltration. Vegetated swales and wetlands are sometimes built on school grounds for these purposes. Other schools seek to conserve water on their school grounds by: installing low-flow water fixtures in their bathrooms; using drip irrigation systems rather than conventional sprinklers; planting drought resistant "xeriscape" gardens; and capturing rainwater in cisterns and rain barrels for future use on school gardens, trees, and other planted areas. A few schools have taken water purification efforts to another level, and have installed systems that process gray- and blackwater used by their buildings' sinks and toilets. Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment and "living machines®" are two methods used by these schools.The list of resources below will provide information about water systems on school grounds and help you to get started on related projects of your own. The list of case studies below includes examples of some of the water projects that are already working at schools around the world.

Please contact the webmaster if you know of additional resources or case studies that should be added to this page. Thanks!

Resources for Water Conservation & Purification

Resource Title Description
Adopt-A-Watershed Curriculum designed to use hands-on activities in a local watershed to educate students about water systems National, USA
American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association ARCSA was founded in Austin, Texas to promote rainwater catchment systems in the United States. Membership consists of professionals working in city, state, and federal government, academia, manufacturers and suppliers of rainwater harvesting equipment, consultants, and other interested individuals.

National, USA
American Water Resources Association National organization of water resource professionals. Website has technical information and back issues of their publication. National, USA
Earthwater® Stencils, Ltd. Company that sells storm drain stencils that help schools and community members prevent water pollution National, USA
EPA Office of Water Ground water and drinking water information for children and educators. Includes classroom activities and experiments. National, USA
EnviroScape® Company that sells a watershed learning tool/model that helps students to understand the connection between water quality and land use National, USA
Give Water a Hand National group that has developed a watershed education program that seeks to involve youth in watershed projects. National, USA

Dharma Living Systems, Inc. and Living Machines®

Company that engineers biological systems to process waste water. Website includes product descriptions and animpressive list of case studies. National, USA
Project WET: Water Education for Teachers Nonprofit organization dedicated to improving stewardship of water resources National, USA
Water Recycling, American Water Works Association Information about water recycling, focused on constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment National, USA
WaterWiser: The Water Efficiency Clearinghouse A program of the American Water Works Association and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Information about water conservation available for purchase. National, USA
Constructed Wetlands, University of South Alabama, Dept. of Civil Engineering Information about constructed wetlands for wastewater (septic) and stormwater treatment. Includes information about benefits, performance data, examples. Mobile, Alabama, USA
Constructed Wetlands: Using Human Ingenuity, Natural Processes to Treat Water, Build Habitat Paper written by Joe Gelt, on the website of the Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona. Good discussion of issues related to constructed wetlands, benefits, etc. Tucson, Arizona, USA
Water Conservation Alliance of Southern Arizona Organization publishes information about water conservation, with emphasis on Arizona. Nice selection of online publications dealing with graywater, water wise landscaping, water conservation, etc. Tucson, Arizona, USA
Water Resources Research Center, University of Arizona A university research organization that addresses water problems in arid Arizona and the local region. Tucson, Arizona, USA
Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Humbolt State University Website has good explanations of water system principles. Onsite projects include: low flow appliances, a composting toilet, a graywater marsh, and a rainwater catchment system. Arcata, California, USA
Water Education Foundation Nonprofit organization that seeks to improve education about water resources. Emphasis on California and the western USA. Sacramento, California, USA
Rivers Project, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville High school curriculum designed to address ground water, storm water, and zebra mussel issues along the Mississippi and lower Illinois Rivers Illinois and midwest , USA
Wetlands on School Sites Program developed by the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District to pair schools that want to construct wetlands with developers who are obligated to build new wetlands for mitigation purposes. Marion County, Indiana, USA
RainWater Recovery Systems, LLC An engineering-design and contracting firm whose exclusive focus is to provide water management and re-use solutions to residential, commercial, and municipal property owners. Website includes rainwater recovery information and water-use calculators. Waltham, Massachusetts, USA is dedicated to the advancement of sustainable water management practices for individuals, families, communities, and businesses. They work collaboratively with vendors, universities, research organizations, and individuals across the globe to devise solutions for managing real world problems in water conservation. Austin, Texas, USA
Ocean Arks International Nonprofit organization promoting living machines®, aquaculture, ecological research, and education. Information about building classroom-sized living machine® models. Burlington, Vermont, USA
Portage County Groundwater Information about ground water management and related curriculum ideas. Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA


Resources around the World

Rain Barrel Program The City of Vancouver subsidizes rain barrels for residents to draw attention to wasteful irrigation practices. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
WetlandsPacific A professional association comprised of individuals who work on all aspects of constructed wetlands. Website includes papers on constructed wetlands. British Columbia, Canada


Case Studies of Schoolyard Water Systems

School Name Project Description Location
Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Humbolt State University Website has good explanations of water system principles. Onsite projects include: low flow appliances, a composting toilet, a graywater marsh, and a rainwater catchment system. Arcata, California, USA
Crenshaw High School Project proposal for extensive water system retrofits for this school. Proposal written by an organization called TreePeople. Ambitious proposal includes several cisterns, shower graywater system, pervious paving, vegetated swales, vertical gardening. Description also includes cost/benefit analysis. Los Angeles, California, USA
John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Good description of the water cycling systems at the Center for Regenerative Studies. System includes: a wetland, ground water recharge, capture of rainwater, and aquaculture. Pomona, California, USA
Casita Center, a technology, science, and math magnet school Xeriscape demonstration garden (drought resistant/low water use) Vista, California, USA
Colorado Xeriscape Demonstration Gardens Great list, compiled by Xeriscape Colorado, Inc., that includes descriptions and links to many xeriscape gardens in Colorado. Colorado, USA
Los Padillas Elementary School Xeriscape garden and "Zuni waffle garden" (traditional planting technique for water conservation in an arid environment) Los Padillas, New Mexico, USA
Santa Fe Children's Museum This museum has incorporated a variety of water awareness projects into its grounds including: water play areas, a water garden, water fountains, and an extensive stormwater catchment system with cisterns, biofiltration, and vegetated swales. Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
The Willow School School design incorporates environmentally sensitive building materials, techniques, and landscape, including a rain water catchment system for stormwater management and water re-use. The school connects their curriculum to their site, in many ways. Gladstone, New Jersey, USA
Darrow High School Residential school for 90 students in the Berkshire Mountains that replaced their sewage septic system with a Living Machine®. Their Living Machine® system treats 8,600 gallons per day of the school's wastewater and has been integrated into their curriculum. New Lebanon, New York, USA
Triangle School Wastewater Treatment Facility Extensive constructed wetland for wastewater treatment, built on the site of a former school. The school site is currently used by university faculty and students from North Carolina State University, and will soon also be used by local public schools via the internet. Chatham County, North Carolina, USA
Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, Oberlin College

College environmental studies building has a living machine® to treat its wastewater.

Additional articles: 1, 2

Oberlin, Ohio, USA
John Jacob Astor Elementary School Elementary students, educators and the community helped design and build a vibrant learning garden that helps clean and filter stormwater runoff from what was formerly 8,500 square feet of asphalt. This project was installed in Spring 2005, in collaboration with Urban Water Works. Portland, Oregon, USA
DaVinci Arts Middle School

Middle school with an extensive stormwater catchment system, cisterns, a pond, bioremediation swales, stormwater gardens, and a living machine. The Living Water Garden project at this school was created in collaboration with Urban Water Works.

Additional articles: 1, 2, 3, 4

Portland, Oregon, USA
Sulzberger Middle School The Mill Creek Watershed project studies an urban creek that runs underground near the school site, and combines environmental education with community development. Established in 1995, the project is in collaboration with students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
South Burlington High School Classroom living machine® program Burlington, Vermont, USA
Conserve School

This private boarding school for 140 students in 9th-12th grades is located on a forested 1,200 acre campus. The school has an impressive wastewater treatment living machine® that processes 38,000 gallons of the school's wastewater per day.

Additional link: 1

Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin, USA


Water System Projects at Schools around the World

Baltic Sea Project Environmental education program coordinated by UNESCO Associated Schools Project, focused on regional water quality issues around the Baltic Sea. Includes related project listings for many schools in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden. Baltic Region, Europe
Boyne River Natural Science School Facility used by schools in the Toronto, Ontario area for outdoor and science education. Living machine processes some of the site's blackwater from the toilet system. Shelburne, Ontario, Canada