Chapel Hill High School Water Sustainability Initiative

The Vision: Students, teachers, community volunteers, and university and town experts will collaborate to enact a water sustainability campaign at Chapel Hill High School. Our “Action Team” will reduce the school’s water footprint and improve water quality in the campus stream. While implementing the earth and environmental science core curriculum, this initiative will develop mentoring relationships for students and forge bonds with the community through hands-on campus projects such as constructing a comprehensive hydrology lab, monitoring and cleaning up the campus stream, building a rain garden to purify stormwater, and identifying vital future improvements.

The Issue: CHHS, built in 1966, has an excessive water footprint. Not only is water is used inefficiently by our school, but the altered manner in which water flows through our campus results in flooding and mold in our school buildings. Our grounds host a headwater stream in the Cape Fear watershed which has become degraded through the school’s impact. High volumes of polluted runoff from the school enter the campus stream each rainstorm, adding to the impairment of Bolin Creek and Jordan Lake and impeding groundwater recharge.

We are in a unique position to spread understanding of these issues while creating an engaging hydrology curriculum aligned with the Common Core Standards. Additionally, our initiative will improve water quality in our stream, reduce flooding, mold, and maintenance costs, reduce runoff and improve infiltration of stormwater, and enhance the beauty of our campus. By addressing water sustainability throughout the campus, we will engage many current and future students and create numerous collaborations with the community.

The Team: a true collaboration among students, teachers, administrators, university experts, private companies and community members including:

Chapel Hill High School Teachers, Rob Greenberg
The Green Tigers, Anna Li
CHHS Earth and Environmental Science Classes, Rob Greenberg
Friends of Bolin Creek, Julie McClintock
Carolina Center for Educational Excellence, Betsy Kempter
Town of Chapel Hill Division of Stormwater, Wendy Smith
NC State University Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Greg Jennings
NC Cooperative Extension, Mitch Woodward
The Redwoods Group, Tyler Bench
UNC Institute for the Environment, Michele Drostin
Watershed Education for Communities and Officials, Patrick Beggs and Christy Perrin

Actions: Projects will include:

  • Building hydrology lab
  • Designing and constructing rain gardens
  • Holding workshops for teachers, students and community members
  • Designing and building an informational kiosk
  • Monitoring campus stream, Jolly Branch and Bolin Creek
  • Stream clean-ups
  • Replacing inefficient water fixtures
  • Improving groundskeeping practices
  • Initiating composting of campus yard debris

Funding and Support: We are currently seeking funding through grant sources such as Tom’s of Main 50 States for Good, Brower Youth Award, USDA, Strowd Roses, and more. We are grateful for start-up funds from Friends of Bolin Creek and the tremendous boost of 60 volunteers from the Redwoods Group community service day to build our hydrology lab!

Main Contacts:

Robert Greenberg, Teacher, CHHS Earth and Env. Science, 929-2106 ext. 41119

Betsy Kempter, Educational Outreach Coordinator, FOBC; Instructor, CCEE (919) 942-2583

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