ASHLAND, Ore. — Southern Oregon University plans to become the first university in the country to offset all of their water usage.
SOU held a rally on Tuesday to announce a student-led program called the Green Fund. The fund is a partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Students pay to offset the water they consume, and that water is returned to its source at the Klamath River Basin.
Roughly 90 percent of the SOU student body voted in favor of the project. They each pay around ten to fifteen dollars each quarter into the Green Fund. That money goes to farmers who irrigate using water from the Basin.
They improve their practices to use less water and they also pledge to draw water during the wet season, and return it during the dry season to keep flow consistent all year. Students say that over five years, the fund will collect around a million dollars and save roughly 80 million gallons of water each year.
“We’re not the richest community out there, and so I thought in over five years if it’s almost a million dollars in investments, we should keep that million dollars here in the valley and see what that does for the environment,” said Green Fund student leader Shaun Franks.
The Bonneville Environmental Foundation says they will be keeping close tabs on the project. They do so by regularly measuring water levels and working with state and third-party groups to hold farmers accountable to their pledge.
Students say this is one of many environmental projects they plan to take on. They’re currently working on getting solar panels put up on the Stevenson Union, and they’re also building a two acre organic farm.