Armidale Community Preschool has a strong emphasis on bringing its children in touch with nature.
Plastic play equipment has been replaced by natural play features, worm farms sit alongside compost bins, water is recycled and activities teach children about sustainability.
Now the preschool’s latest activity has helped to reduce its consumption of the region’s dwindling town water supply and take the Allingham Street facility towards water self-sufficiency. Six Source Hydropanels have been installed on the roof of the community-owned facility, drawing moisture out of the air and producing between 60 and 120 litres of drinking water each day.
With an average of 39 students at the preschool each day and a target for each child to drink 500 millilitres per day, the Source panels are comfortably producing enough to meet the demand for drinking water.
Solar panels built into each Hydropanel power a process that draws ambient moisture from the air and converts it to pure water, passing it through filters that remove any flavour. The water is then stored in a tank and dispensed at a drinking fountain, without the need for any further treatment.
The Source panels have been funded by the preschool’s share of NSW Department of Education funding to preschools in drought-affected areas.
The preschool has received two instalments of $20,000 each, covering the $36,000 cost of purchasing and installing the panels and associated equipment – and assisting with additional water saving initiatives on the preschool grounds.
“We’re also awaiting the arrival of two water tanks, to complement the tanks we already have in place and increase the amount of water we’re capturing,” the preschool’s Director/Nominated Supervisor, Sue Motley, said.
Sue has been at the preschool for 15 years and stepped up to the Director role five years ago. In that time, she has overseen a greater focus on nature, sustainability and adventurous play.
Softfall areas and plastic equipment have made way for a vegetable garden and natural features for outdoor play.
Water from handwashing, cleaning and the washing machine is captured and reused wherever possible and children are taught to be water-wise with their day-to-day activities.
“We have a roster of where that captured water is used around the garden and the children are involved in the watering,” Sue said.
“Many of the staff live on rural properties and depend on tank water, so we’re well accustomed to saving water.”
A pint-sized urinal was fitted in the boys toilet because it was more water efficient and water from one of the new tanks will be used for flushing toilets.
“Sustainability and being responsible with water have been central to the preschool’s activities for quite a while. However, we have further reduced our water consumption by more than half since the water restrictions began,” she said.
“We are working to drought-proof our areas and the installation of the Hydropanels in August has taken us further down that path.”