YSEC highlights wonders of water

A large homemade fountain in the Commons rotunda, featuring a network of tubing and PVC spigots, brought water — and facts about water issues — directly to students on Monday.

Developed by the Yale chapter of Engineers Without Borders, the fountain is a part of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition’s week-long effort to raise awareness on issues surrounding local and global water use. Water Week — which is being run in collaboration with other Yale student groups such as Engineers Without Borders and the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership — will foster discussion of water-related quandaries, ranging from agricultural and climate change issues to public health and social justice problems.

Students in Yale’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders hope that Water Week will raise the Yale community’s awareness of water consumption issues.
Charles Francis
Students in Yale’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders hope that Water Week will raise the Yale community’s awareness of water consumption issues.

“Water is a very important issue that crosses all those borders,” said YSEC member Matt Ramlow ’11, who spearheaded the program. “It’s something we wanted to bring more attention to.”

The first event of the week, an Engineers Without Borders presentation on Monday night, focused on simple piping systems that Yale students have developed to bring clean water to villagers in the Republic of Cameroon, a small African nation that borders Nigeria.

“No access to clean water creates a bad quality of life and it’s bad for economic development, too,” Engineers Without Borders member Jessica Jeffers ’09 said. Team members emphasized that in villages such as Kikoo, Cameroon, where water is used in all aspects of daily life, simple distribution or filtration systems can have a big impact in decreasing illness and increasing economic productivity.

The idea for Water Week originated as a way to campaign against bottled water, but the event ultimately evolved into a multi-faceted lineup that includes panels about pollution featuring Yale professors, movie screenings and a trivia competition. Dining halls across campus now sport pledge posters encouraging students to go trayless for breakfast during Water Week and table tents featuring facts about plastic water bottles.

“We’re just trying to encourage students to think a little bit more about their consumption patterns,” YSEC Co-Chair Ariel Patashnik ’09 said.

Each unused tray saves about half a gallon of water, a figure that could quickly add up to make a big difference, Ramlow said.

Coordinators of Water Week emphasized that the overarching goal for the week is to emphasize the different ways in which water issues affect local, national and international communities. While clean water is not a scarce resource at Yale, Ramlow said, students should still learn about the consequences that result from overuse of resources.

“The main point in the grand scheme of things is that we are depleting our water sources,” he said.

Water waste does not only occur during lengthy showers, Ramlow said, noting that many manufacturing industries rely on water to create their products. If more people knew that about three bottles of water are consumed in the production of every plastic bottle, he said, they might think twice about buying them.

For an audience of about 30 students Tuesday night, YSEC held a screening of FLOW, a documentary examining the ways in which the privatization of fresh water benefits industries at the expense of the poor.

Zachary Mulvihill ’11, who attended the screening, said he thinks the week will raise awareness of water-related issues.

“Water is a great place to start,” he said. “These are problems that we are obligated to deal with.”

Water Week will continue Wednesday with a glaciology lecture conducted by the Yale Winter School at 7:30 p.m. and a panel at 8:30 p.m. on “Unclogging the Pipes: A Panel on 21st Century Water Issues.”

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