April 5-11, 2002
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U.Va. makes every drop count: Take steps to conserve water

By Matt Kelly

The good news: the University has reduced its water consumption by 8 percent in the first eight months of the current fiscal year.

The bad news: more must be done.

Virginia is enduring drought conditions not seen in more than 70 years, and is coming off the driest six-month period since weather records have been kept. Stream flows reached historic lows for March, comparable to levels normally seen in the drier months of September and October.

What you can do to conserve

water faucet1. Repair leaks.

2. Wash only full loads of clothes and dishes.

3. Do not run the water while shaving or brushing teeth.

4. Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down.

5. Wash cars with a sponge and bucket of water, and use a sprayer head on the hose.

6. Limit showers to five minutes or less.

7. Do not use the toilet as a trash can.

8. Do outdoor watering early in the morning or late at night, if at all.

9. Plant native grasses and shrubs that require less water.

10. Install low-flow faucets, aerators and toilets.

Gov. Mark Warner has directed state agencies to develop water conservation plans and is urging Virginians to reduce water use “for non-critical purposes.” The University, the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority are working together in a joint effort to convince area residents to reduce water consumption by 10 percent.

Tony Motto, the University’s energy program manager, said the University has been installing aerators on faucets on Grounds and at the Medical Center to reduce water flow, and the Housing Division is working with contractors to install 230 high-efficiency washing machines in the residence hall laundry rooms. Many water-conserving toilets have been retrofitted into older University buildings, and low-flow showerheads have been installed in the residence halls and athletic facilities as they are renovated, said Cheryl Gomez, director of utilities for the University.

The University has halted most outdoor watering, though Gomez said this accounts for only about 1.5 to 2 percent of U.Va.’s water use. Some watering must continue to protect the University’s investment in athletic fields and to keep them safe for the players. Some new plantings may also require watering to get them established, but storm-water runoff, captured in holding tanks, is being used where possible, Motto said. The University has also stopped washing vehicles and equipment.

“We’re trying to combine behavior changes with technology, so we can all work together to reach a goal,” Motto said.

Having worked on a series of water conservation methods at the University in 1999, Motto expressed optimism that, given good information, most people will do the right thing.

The University’s water pipes appear to be in good shape, Gomez said. Last fall, leaks were fixed at two locations under McCormick Road, and in two fire hydrants. Water lines leading to the McCormick Road dorms have been replaced, and plans are afoot to replace those at the Academical Village.

About 25 percent of the University’s water is used in heating and cooling. Most is conserved in a closed system, in which steam is generated for heat, then the condensation is recaptured for reuse, although some steam is lost through evaporation, Motto said.

The University has also benefited from a mild summer and winter, which put less stress on the heating and cooling systems.

U.Va.’s water usage generally falls around 600 million gallons per fiscal year. Gomez estimates that the University uses 20,000 gallons per student and employee, or about 55 gallons per person per day; the national average is 101 gallons per person per day. This does not measure employees’ water use at home, she noted.

The University’s water conservation plan mandates that new facilities include central chiller plants that re-circulate chilled water for cooling; building boilers or central heating plants that re-circulate hot water; water meters in all buildings, with separate metering for irrigation systems; and low-flow toilets and showerheads.

Long-term projects include installation of central chilled water systems, expansion of central chiller plants to reduce stand-alone units, replacement of older toilets and showerheads, and use of state-of-the-art irrigation systems that shut off when a prescribed soil moisture content is reached.


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