9-Year-Old's Science Fair Project Saves City Thousands of Gallons of Water

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik / cc

So often there's the sense that only with dramatic change can we bring about a more sustainable world -- but in reality, sometimes all it takes is the imagination of a child. Meet Mason Perez, a 9-year-old from Reno, Nevada, whose science fair project has helped save his community tens of thousands of gallons of water. Two years ago, when he was only seven, the gradeschooler discovered an all-too-common point of waste that had been overlooked by grown-ups there for ages. And, with just one surprisingly simple fix, Mason found a way that the city could conserve one of its most important natural resources.According to a report from The Reno Gazette-Journal, Mason's ingeniously innovative idea was borne from an experience he had two years ago. One day, he was at the a local baseball field enjoying a hot dog with his mother, and afterwards he visited the park's restroom to wash up -- but the water from the faucet was so strong that is was almost too painful for his little hands to bear. That's when he stumbled upon a simple discovery: if the tap was turned down halfway, it was actually just as effective.

The youngster began to suspect something which most adults had never thought of -- that reducing water pressure could save a lot of water. With this theory in mind, and his school's science fair approaching, Mason set out to prove it.

From the Gazette-Journal:

He tested his theory by using a half-gallon bucket and a stop watch, measuring how much water came out within a certain amount of time when the valves were wide open and when they were turned half off.

The tests were conducted three times each at his house, his grandmother's house and a friend's house, with a resulting savings in water use ranging from almost 4 percent to 23 percent.

He also went to three businesses: Reno Aces ballpark, Scheels sporting goods store and the Coconut Bowl at Wild Waters in Sparks. His tests showed savings from 6 to 25 percent.

It is common practice for construction workers to leave valves fully open when installing plumbing -- it's important for clearing out new pipes, but evidently unnecessary to stay that way in the long-term, and wasteful too.

Mason and his mother then approached the ballpark's manager, Rick Parr, and told him about the idea of turning down the pressure. At first, Parr wasn't convinced that it would help.

"But after listening to him, I thought, 'This kid could be right.' So I went down to the bathrooms myself to check out his theory. We didn't measure it, but you could tell right away that it worked." says Parr

"You don't have to be a scientist to see that you can save water. And it didn't make any difference in how well you could wash your hands. The only difference was you weren't wasting a lot of water in the process."

Since 2009, the park has reduced the water pressure in its facilities, saving an untold amount of water and saved 20 percent off their utility bill each month. And sure enough, the idea started catching the attention of the local water authority, TMWA. There are meetings planned to determine where Mason's idea can be implemented, like in other parks, public schools, casinos, and private homes.

Ultimately, turning down the pressure on some water lines won't just be a boon for the environment, but for the other areas as well.

"You know how teachers have kind of been losing their jobs?" Mason told the Gazette-Journal. "If we turned down every valve at every school we have in the Washoe County School District, with all that money we can save, we can save at least one teacher's job."

Oh, and by the way, his project took the top prize at the science fair.

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Tags: Nevada | Water Conservation

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