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N.C. State, UNC compete in water conservation

As two of its Atlantic Coast Conference rivals square off in a competition to conserve water, Duke is watching from the sidelines.

"It is time to take our friendly athletic rivalry to a new level," Chancellor James Oblinger of North Carolina State University wrote in a formal letter to James Moeser, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, early this month.

Oblinger and Bobby Mills, a junior and student body president at N.C. State, proposed a "water-conservation challenge" with UNC to see which campus' residence halls could cut back the most on water use. The challenge, which is a response to the current drought, will be measured in gallons used per student.

The contest began with the football game between UNC and N.C. State Nov. 10 and will end with their February basketball game.

Mills said the idea for the challenge emerged from an environmental contest among dormitories at N.C. State, which he said is similar to Duke's Eco-Olympics.

"In the state of North Carolina, we are one of the largest users of water and utilities, so it is definitely something we should take a stand on," he said. "A lot of [us] have had this rivalry since birth, so that sort of feeds the fire."

N.C. State freshman Maggie Ernest said the rivalry challenge will promote awareness of the drought's severity.

"The competition aspect is going to make a big difference," she said. "I don't think people realize that this is serious and this is actually going to happen. Once people realize that, there will be change."

Duke sophomore Ciara Wirth said she thought a similar challenge could work at Duke.

"It would be really helpful because there is so much energy and excitement over the basketball games," she said. "If you just get some e-mails, there is a hard time telling there is a drought."

Vice President for Campus Services Kemel Dawkins, who is also the chair of the Water Conservation Management Group at Duke, said he was encouraged by the water-challenge idea.

"I will be in touch with our colleagues at Carolina and our colleagues at State in regards to some of the efforts that they have under way," he said. "We may look for some sort of competitive program at Duke as well."

But sophomore Kelsey Shaw, co-vice president of Environmental Alliance, said she did not think a competition would encourage Duke students to respond to the drought.

"I am inclined to say it wouldn't really motivate them," she said. "I think there is just sort of a conception that we can buy it from Asheville or Atlanta or wherever."

Wirth agreed that many Duke students do not recognize the drought as a major problem.

"I think people who are from the South and from North Carolina, just from seeing their hometowns change, they are more aware," she said.

Oblinger wrote in his letter that N.C. State and UNC "share a common goal of being good stewards of the state's resources."

"If you grew up here that is going to be really important to you," Ernest said. "I think taking a stake in your state's environmental resources is something that could motivate people."


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