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District aims to cut water, energy use at schools; FPL, SFWMD to work with officials

By Staff | Sep 3, 2008

The Lee County School District is working with Florida Power & Light and the South Florida Water Management District to outfit 25 schools throughout the county with new technologies to reduce the consumption of water and energy.

Acting as the largest employer in Lee County, with some 12,000 employees who serve 80,000 students, the school district uses water and energy prodigiously, leading district officials to improve existing technology to not only save money in difficult economic times but also conserve natural resources.

“It is very heavily concentrated on lighting and some water conservation. Dollar for dollar it is more lighting but water conservation is important part of it,” said James Best, supervisor of energy management.

FP&L will work with the district and report to officials on how electricity and water can be conserved. The first phase has been completed, according to district officials, which included designs to improve facility operations, lower the amount of energy and reduce the overall costs associated with powering the district.

High efficiency lighting, low-flow water fixtures, cooling tower water meter change-outs, thermal energy storage system improvements, trash compactors and vending machine controllers were all installed in certain schools. The next step is to expand improvements to 25 schools.

SFWMD recently awarded the Lee County School District $50,000 to assist in outfitting the 25 schools with water-based conservation technologies.

Last fiscal year, from July 2007 to June 2008, the school district used more than 170 million gallons of water, explained Best.

The school board will decide Tuesday whether to approve the project that will update existing technology.

For example, new toilets are expected to tremendously reduce the amount of water used. The 3.5 gallon-per-flush toilets will be replaced by those that flush with 1.28 gallons.

“It’s anything to save a buck right now and improve the atmosphere using newer, more efficient technology that gets the jobs done,” said Best. “Every time a kid flushes the toilet we save money.”

The district is expecting to conserve 2.5 million gallons of water at Estero High, 3.7 million gallons of water at Fort Myers High and 3 million at Riverdale High. These three schools were listed in the grant application to the water management district.