UConn Considers Water Supply Options to Meet Area’s Future Needs

A deliberative process is under way to identify and secure a reliable water source to meet the needs of the University of Connecticut and the surrounding area for the next several decades.

UConn officials are reviewing three possible options as part of the work to complete an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE), which includes identifying a source that could produce 2 million gallons of water per day to serve various projects in coming decades in Mansfield and at the University.

A public hearing took place this week on campus, and written comments are being accepted on the draft EIE and water supply options through Jan. 4.

“Undertaking and completing this EIE is a necessary first step to securing additional sources of water supply needed for the University’s and the Storrs area’s long term redevelopment and growth,” says Thomas Callahan, associate vice president.

Redevelopment of Mansfield’s Four Corners and the University’s Depot Campus, long-term development of the UConn Technology Park, and construction of a community-supported assisted living community on Maple Road in Mansfield all require reliable sources of water over the next several decades, Callahan says.

“Securing additional sources of supply to meet these planned growth needs and maintaining an adequate margin of safety is essential to properly operating and managing a public water supply system,” he says.

Water use on campus is actually lower now than it was about a decade ago, despite the area’s growth in population and infrastructure – a fact attributable to concerted conservation efforts and reclamation initiatives.

One such initiative, a new water reclamation facility nearing completion on the Storrs campus, is expected to be especially helpful in UConn’s work to manage water demand. Scheduled to be operational in early 2013, it will allow the University to treat up to 1 million gallons of non-potable, or not drinkable, water per day.

The reclaimed water will be used to help run the University’s CoGeneration power plant, which provides electricity, air conditioning, and heat across most of the Storrs campus. It is currently the single largest user of potable water on campus, requiring as much as 350,000 to 400,000 gallons of water on a hot summer day.

UConn students have also been critical partners in the effort to conserve water on campus and in the region. This fall, an awareness campaign drew additional attention to the University’s ongoing “Stop the Drop!” campaign, widely spreading the word to report leaks and conserve water in laundry rooms, residence halls, and elsewhere. That outreach effort culminated in a 7 percent drop in water consumption for September 2012 compared with one year earlier.

Even with the reclamation and conservation efforts, though, an additional water supply source will be needed to meet the projected growth of the University and the town of Mansfield over the next 50 years.

Three options are being reviewed as part of the EIE: a connection with Connecticut Water Co., whose pipeline would be extended from Tolland; a connection with Windham Water Works; or a connection with the Metropolitan District Commission, which would extend a pipeline from East Hartford to the region.

The process is governed by rules of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act, which require UConn to review and respond to comments it receives in response to the EIE; prepare a report for consideration by the UConn Board of Trustees; and, if approved, forward it to the state Office of Policy and Management for review.

Each alternative would also require permits and approvals, continuing to provide opportunity for public input at various stages. UConn hopes to complete the EIE in spring 2013 and negotiate agreements later in the year, although design and construction would take between three and five years, depending on the option selected.

The EIE is available for review online at: http://www.envpolicy.uconn.edu/eie.html