April showers are said to bring May flowers, but in College Park, residents hope they will bring environmental consciousness and perhaps some eco-friendly prizes.
During April, more than 700 College Park residents are participating in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation by taking shorter showers, using low-flow shower heads and using other conservation methods. Contest participants sign an online pledge and become eligible for daily prizes such as low flow shower heads and sprinkler systems, as well as a chance at a Toyota Prius grand prize if their city wins.
College Park remained within the top five municipalities in its size bracket of 30,000 to 99,999 residents for the first three weeks of April, and as of April 21, was number five. The only other Maryland municipalities in a top 10 position were Baltimore and Frederick as of April 21, with Frederick in 10th place in the same bracket as College Park, and Baltimore taking second in the largest bracket of 600,000 residents or more.
College Park Mayor Andrew Fellows said this is the first year the city has participated in the annual challenge, which began in 2012, and that he is encouraged by the support from council members and residents.
“I think we have a pretty aware population. I think [the community] has risen to the challenge,” Fellows said. “The more we reduce use of our water, the better it is for the planet in general. It is somewhat wasteful to use water the way people usually do.”
Fellows said he is actively participating in the challenge and signed the pledge conserve through taking short showers and using less water on the lawn.
“I’m pretty conscious when I’m using the sink to use water sparingly,” he said. “In every way [my wife and I] can think of, we choose the more conservation-minded way, and that’s what I encourage most people to do.”
Christine Nagle of College Park said she signed the online pledge and has tracked the city’s success.
Nagle said she works for the water supply program at the Maryland Department of the Environment in Baltimore and promotes water conservation as part of her job.
“For me [signing the pledge] was a no-brainer,” she said. “I think we do have a lot of people living here in College Park who are very environmentally concerned, so they want to do the right thing and they’re willing to do what it takes.”
Through her job, Nagle said she often sees people taking water for granted.
“Water is a finite source. We think of having so much water, but a very small portion is actually drinkable,” she said. “I think one thing people don’t realize is how much money goes into treating that water.”
Steve Beavers, College Park community development coordinator, said the city raised awareness about the conservation contest through emails, the city website and fliers at the University of Maryland, College Park.
“It’s a neat contest because people get to learn about easy things they can do to save water,” Beavers said. “All those little actions you can take add up to big savings. I think it is a pretty powerful educational tool.”