Step 3: Data Analysis
To test part (a) of our first hypothesis, we started implementing specific water conservation efforts in two of our houses: Abha’s and Vaibhav’s. We restricted our shower duration to 5 minutes using a timer, reduced the sprinklers to run only thrice a week. We made our family members aware of water consumption - while brushing teeth, using washers, cleaning our drive-way and other similar areas.
Our conservation efforts led to significant reductions (see page 4-5 under ‘Attachments’) when we compared our water consumption for Oct ’11 to Jan ’12 to the corresponding period of last year. In Vaibhav’s house, the water consumption was reduced by 28% in October, 27% in November and 20% in December. Abha’s family started conserving water from November and they reduced consumption by over 27% during the December – January period and ~39% in February’12.
By comparing data over few months, we were able to conclude that conscious conservation efforts at our households can reduce overall consumption significantly enough to make an impact.
To test part (b) of our first hypothesis, we analyzed the data of ~1100 students and 120 adults first (see page 6 under ‘Attachments’) and we found that:
o The average shower time for high school students was 13.4 minutes, middle school students was 11.4 minutes and adults was 8.9 minutes.
o The average shower time for all respondents was about 11.6 minutes - significantly above the recommended shower time of 5 minutes.
o 69% of high school children shower for more than 10 minutes compared to 50% of middle school and 27% of adults.
• Running faucet while brushing teeth
o 89% of middle school students leave their faucet running.
o 83% of high school students and 86% of all respondents leave it running.
• Washing Machine
o In nearly 80% of the cases families load their washers fully before washing clothes.
• Sprinkler system
o 76.5% of adults surveyed reduced sprinkler time during the winter. But we didn’t get good data from students as most of them were unaware. However, among the people who were aware, ~40% of them did not reduce their sprinkler timing during winters.
• Washing driveways
o 22% of adults hose their drive-ways. However, this data is also somewhat skewed because several students were not aware of this practice at their houses. Among the people who responded, 32.1% of them use water to clean their driveways.
Based on our data analysis of the survey, we started a water conservation contest at the middle school and three elementary schools in Manhattan Beach School District. Before the contest started, the students watched a video that we authored to show the impact of water crisis across the globe. We spoke about water conservation, and the need for the students to take steps to reduce water consumption. We gave students a water conservation log (see page 7 under ‘Attachments’). They had to log in their shower time and whether they switched off their faucets while brushing their teeth each day for four weeks (Jan 18th – Feb 14th). We also hung water conservation banners at all schools in Manhattan Beach School District. Using an honor system, we offered a small incentive for groups to submit their logs, but without any reward. At the end of the experiment, we received 395 middle school students’ entries, which is a reasonable sample size. The distribution of shower time was as follows (see page 8-9 under ‘Attachments’): spending less than 5 minutes in shower was 29%, in 5 – 10 minutes range was 46%, 10 – 15 minutes was 21%, and 15 – 20 minutes was 3%, while greater than 20 minutes was barely 2%. Using our earlier mid-point estimation method, the average shower time in this group was 8.3 minutes, which was nearly 27% lower than the average time of 11.4 minutes (see page 6 under ‘Attachments’) we had measured earlier.
Similarly, the children that now shut off water while brushing their teeth increased to 99% from our earlier survey result of 89%.
We were really encouraged by the reduced water consumption habits of the students over four weeks and we truly believe that it was due to awareness and education on water conservation.
We didn’t include elementary schools’ data because the students’ participation was very low. This was due to the fact that the teachers were inundated with work, so they didn’t put much emphasis on our project.
Our second hypothesis was about inadequate reclamation devices to reuse water at our households. Our hypothesis was that there are several opportunities that exist to reclaim water domestically to reduce water consumption. We added this hypothesis because wastewater treatment is very energy intensive.
To test this hypothesis we conducted an experiment at one of our houses. We recycled water by re-routing the washer’s drainage pipe and running it all the way to the lawn. The water from the washer is soapy and can actually reduce fungus on plants.
In the period we carried out this experiment, our January water consumption for two months came down (see page 4-5 under ‘Attachments’) from 22 HCF in 2011 to 16 HCF in 2012 – a substantial reduction of nearly 27.27%! We cannot attribute the complete 27% reduction to the recycling experiment, because we were also reducing our consumption through other means that were described earlier.
However, it does mean that by adding recycling capabilities we were able to further and substantially reduce the water consumption at our house.
To effectively accomplish our project goals, we had to make changes. When we initially started to survey students, we combined the middle school surveys with the high school surveys. We started these surveys with high schools first. Later, we surveyed middle school students. We discovered a major trend between middle and high school students. High school students generally had worse conservation habits than middle school students. We immediately changed our surveys combining high school students and middle school students and implemented surveys that showed the difference between these two groups.