MILWUKEE, Wis. — Across the country, household water leaks can waste nearly a trillion gallons of water each year. And as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency promotes its annual “fix a leak week,” an innovative school curriculum is teaching students how to conserve water and other utilities.
The students in this class are on the hunt for drips, drops and water wastage.
“We all use these utilities' water, electricity, but not a lot of people have an understanding about how much of these different resources that we use,” said Megan Otero, principal at St. Joan Antida High School in Milwaukee.
The Meter Hero curriculum teaches students how to read their utility meter and collect data about their electricity, gas and water consumption each day.
“They are going to take pictures periodically and see also their usage and what they can do about it,” said Lalitha Murali, a Meter Hero teacher.
It’s the plotting of that data over the course of the year that will help them uncover trends that can shape their behavior to be more conservation conscious.
“I also think that it helps me be more aware and conscious like not to leave like the sink running. I'm just going to run and do something,” said 7th grader Nyla Deans.
Studying the meter can also flag systemic problems.
The U.S. EPA estimates that the average household’s leaks account for 10,000 gallons of wasted water each year. And 10% of leaks waste 90 gallons or more per house a day.
“When I hear stories about the family that discovered a leak and then get those utility payments adjusted because they were able to find and fix the leak in their home,” said Otero.
Victoria Jewell, 14, is studying whether a more efficient dishwasher could save water by eliminating the current need to pre-rinse.
“I'm still getting baseline data right now before I start to change up how I wash my dishes,” said Jewell. “So, I'm starting to kind of experiment with that later on in the project.”
Layla, 12, is tracking showering lengths and temperatures in her Milwaukee home.
“A way to save more water is cutting down on our shower times or trying to take slightly cooler showers,” she said.
Otero says the Meter Hero project is something anyone can do all on their own.
“That's what scientists do, those heroes that we admire. They do all of that on a little bit larger scale. So, we can all be our own science heroes right in our homes.”
The year-long project says educators give these students a real-world lesson in conservation. Jewell says it’s a foundation to be better stewards of our planet.
“If we're able to lower how much water, electricity or gas we use every year then we can make very big impacts on the planet.”