UNC taking proactive steps for water conservation
Many on campus may remember the severe drought of 2002. Four years ago, dry conditions led to water restrictions in Orange County and surrounding areas.
During that drought, UNC implemented numerous conservation measures, many of which remain in place today as part of the overall sustainability effort.
This year, the University is taking additional proactive steps to conserve water in cooperation with Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), which supplies water to campus.
On March 18, the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council issued a severe drought advisory for central North Carolina, including Orange County. This advisory requested drought response actions by each county.
On Thursday night, April 27th, the OWASA Board of Directors declared a water supply advisory for OWASA customers. The advisory means that OWASA is formally alerting its customers of a future shortage and that additional water use restrictions may go into effect if conditions do not improve in the near future.
Since another drought would affect the community's water supply, Chancellor James Moeser has reinstated UNC’s goal of reducing water consumption on campus by at least 25 percent. The campus, combined with UNC Hospitals, is the largest OWASA customer, accounting for 38,000 users and 30 percent of the utility’s total water consumption.
“Thanks to improved infrastructure and behavior, UNC has reduced per capita water consumption by 18 percent since 2000,” said Cindy Shea, director of UNC’s Sustainability Office. “Now, with another drought upon us, it’s time to ramp up our efforts and achieve a 25 percent reduction in water use.”
Reaching our reduction goal will require the entire campus community to work hard together and effectively in the coming weeks and months, Shea said. The campus is committed to being a partner with OWASA and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to get through any potential crisis.
In recent years, UNC has taken a number of steps to conserve water, such as installing low-flow faucets and showerheads and water-free urinals. In high-use areas the urinals are conservatively estimated to save 40,000 gallons of water per urinal per year.
Dual-flush toilets — which use 1.1 gallons of water per flush for liquid waste and 1.6 gallons for solids — were recently introduced at several campus facilities. Closed-loop cooling systems, which save water, have been installed to cool lab equipment.
On main campus, plants that require irrigation receive a maximum of one inch of water per week — primarily from well water. At Finley Golf Course, outdoor irrigation is done solely with water from the University’s own wells and Morgan Creek.
The University will also reinstall rain-collecting barrels — first used during the drought of 2002 — on downspouts throughout campus as a way to conserve water. Other stormwater management initiatives also capture and reuse rain water.
“During past severe droughts, the University’s administration, employees and students responded to our special requests for additional conservation,” OWASA Executive Director Ed Kerwin said.
“Our community has benefited from these efforts, and we look forward to continuing to work with the University to achieve further reductions in water use through the planned water reuse system and other measures.”
The reuse system will substitute reclaimed wastewater for potable water at the University’s cooling towers, thereby reducing the entire community’s long-term water demand by 13 percent. (Click here for more details on the reuse system.)
“UNC is a model for other universities when it comes to water use efficiency and to balancing the near-term costs with the long-term benefits,” Kerwin said.
“Whether you’re planning a new building, fixing an old one, or taking a shower, remember ‘Every Drop Counts,’” Shea said.
Look for updates on the universitys ongoing conservation efforts and
tips on this page, in The University
Gazette and through other campus communications.