Spotlight on Sustainability
Physics Catchment System
Students entering through the main entrance of the physics building will notice another addition to their routine sights. Following the 2011 initial installation of campus gardens on the South lawn of Physics, which is currently home to 29 beds measuring 4x8ft, there is a new 250 gallon cistern tucked away behind the bushes. This cistern will be the first stop for gardeners when plants need watering.
Previous practices for watering the beds involved using potable water from the taps on the outside of the building. Seeing the potential for improvement, students from the engineering organization Engineers Without Borders (EWB) used water flow information gathered in 2010 to calculate the average precipitation and expected water usage.Armed with this and other information regarding water needs the students designed a Rainwater Catchment System that would utilize the awning at the front of the physics building and divert approx. 4500 gallons of water per year from entering the Milwaukee Combined Sewer System and instead use it to irrigate the garden plots. The students drew up a report, and with the aid of the Office of Sustainability, presented this proposal to the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust (Sweet Water). They received the Water Quality Mini-Grant and completed construction this October.The now-completed cistern will provide approximately half of the demand for water from the gardens. Starting with first planting in the spring the cistern will become the gardener’s most reached-for tool. Introducing the new practice of using harvested water first before potable/drinking water will hopefully increase awareness of actions required for better water stewardship.
The UWM Physics building is now home to it's first cistern