Student project keeps SOU at the forefront of U.S. water conservation

NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/eQLLBn)

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University, which in 2012 became the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption, has renewed its five-year contract to offset the campus water footprint by supporting waterway restoration in Oregon.

ASSOU has completed a five-year contract for water restoration on Sevenmile Creek (BEF photo)

The project is student-led and will be funded over the next five years by $100,000 annually from a “Green Fund” tax – currently $13 per student, each term – that SOU students have imposed on themselves since 2007. The Green Fund also pays for several other sustainability projects on campus.

Water Restoration Certificates purchased by the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University will pay for a ground-breaking piping and flow-restoration project over the next five years, primarily on Whychus Creek near Bend. The project will restore stream flow and fish and wildlife habitat, conserve millions of gallons of water, make more water available for irrigators and prevent the loss of fish in irrigation withdrawals by using state-of-the-art fish screens.

“The Whychus Creek water project is a fantastic opportunity to offset our campus’ water usage while restoring wildlife habitat and streamflow to a river in our community,” said Lindsay Swanson, who serves on ASSOU’s Environmental Affairs Committee. “As a student at SOU, I am proud of this university’s commitment to sustainable water usage.”

SOU students initially offset all of the university’s water usage in 2012 by purchasing Water Restoration Certificates to fund a five-year project on Seven Mile Creek in the Klamath River Basin.  That project has been completed, so students looked at a variety of options before choosing the Bend-area project to continue balancing SOU’s water footprint – and remain one of the few universities in the nation to do so.

The Environmental Affairs Committee considered using the Green Fund on renewable energy projects or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education training before voting to continue supporting water restoration.

“Heading into the next century, conservation of water resources will only become more and more important,” Swanson said. “As a university, it is our responsibility to recognize and mitigate the impact our campus has on the world around us, especially in regard to resource use.”

SOU’s student government works with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to purchase Water Restoration Certificates and identify projects to support. The non-profit BEF – which partners with the Bonneville Power Administration but operates independently – markets green power products to government agencies, businesses, utilities and others.

After adopting the Green Fund tax in 2007, SOU students were among the first in the nation to offset all of their university’s energy use by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates that supported North Dakota wind farms. After that initial five-year contract expired, SOU shifted to water restoration projects, in part to support environmental change closer to home.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.