UC Merced students clash in "Water Battle 2011"

MERCED, Calif.

"Water Battle 2011" is the title of a month-long water conservation contest at U.C. Merced that pits more than 550 students from 9 residence halls against each other. The idea is to save as much of the precious resource as possible.

"Establishing a water conscious culture in our students is a great way to get sustainability out in the world," said Jared Calnisan with Green Campus.

Calnisan and Martin Figueroa work for Green Campus -- the student run group planning and organizing the competition. Throughout the month of October, they've been going door to door to talk with students and offer them tips on how to conserve water.

"I've been taking shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing my teeth," said student Laura Acevedo.

The group also partnered up with a Silicon Valley startup called Aqua-Cue. Attached to each hall's water meter is what the company calls a "barnacle." In addition to measuring the students water use, the device also transmits the data in real-time to the company's website. Students can then check their ranking and post that information to the competition's Facebook page.

Campus Sustainability Coordinator at U.C. Merced, Jim Genes, said it helps keep kids engaged and motivated in the competition. "We believe we are the first campus to use this technology to increase campus efficiency for water use as a campus and to bring it into the living laboratory that is our campus and make it part of our students educational experience."

The competition is now entering its final week. So far the students have saved more than 70,000 gallons of water -- a 15 percent reduction in overall use. The hall that saves the most water will win a pizza party and 1,000 dollars to donate to their charity of choice.

Organizers say the best reward is recognition from other schools.

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