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Water conservation measures announced

by Karen A. Grava - August 27, 2007

The University has issued a water conservation alert asking students, faculty, and staff, as well as municipal, commercial, and residential water users, to voluntarily limit water use.

The alert was issued on Aug. 6 in compliance with the University’s water supply contingency plan, which asks system users to conserve water when stream flows in the Fenton River are reduced below specific levels.

This is a special trigger adopted by the University, based on environmental considerations.

The reduced stream flow in the Fenton River is due to dry weather conditions and low rainfall. The University has not pumped water from the well field since July 26, and only minimal daily summer withdrawals from the Fenton well field were made before that.

“It’s important to note that the University’s water supply is not taken from the Fenton or Willimantic Rivers themselves, but from groundwater aquifers that are located underneath the ground, adjacent to the river streams,” says Thomas Q. Callahan, associate vice president for facilities operations.

“The conservation alert was activated due to naturally occurring environmental conditions,” he adds, “not because of pumping, increased demands or concerns with the water system capacity. Because of recent system improvements, demand management measures, and greater operational flexibility, the University continues to have adequate water to serve UConn’s water system customers needs, both on and off-campus.”

Under the Water Conservation Alert, customers both on and off campus are asked to voluntarily:

  • take shorter showers;
  • run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads;
  • not let water run continuously when washing dishes, shaving, and brushing teeth;
  • avoid washing cars or power washing buildings;
  • reduce lawn watering, or water in the late evening;
  • not fill swimming pools;
  • raise the thermostat temperature in air-conditioned UConn buildings, and;
  • report leaky fixtures in UConn buildings to campus officials.

Additionally, the University is working to minimize its own use.

Those measures have been successful in the last few years; as a result, even though the University has grown, its water use has not.

UConn’s water system, managed by Connecticut Water, serves the Storrs and Depot campuses, and some municipal, commercial, and residential users near the campus.

“There is now greater operational flexibility due in large part to improvements made by the University, working closely with the state Department of Public Health and Department of Environmental Protection and Connecticut Water’s operation and management team” Callahan says.

System and operational improvements have lessened demand on any one source of supply, and help the University better meet the system’s average daily demand. Improvements include new pumps and motors; new automated tank level controls at the wells for better operational and water usage efficiency; leak detection surveys in 2005 and 2007 to identify and correct leaks and system inefficiencies; improvements to the transmission main that carries water from the Willimantic well field to better meet system demand; and improved stream flow measurement for a more accurate reading of stream flow conditions.

In addition, says Callahan, the University is installing system-wide metering to better measure usage, completing and implementing recommendations from a broad conservation study, and developing a water reclamation plan.

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