The University of Connecticut and Connecticut Water Co. have reached an agreement on a long-term water contract to supplement the supply for the Storrs campus and part of Mansfield. The agreement also sets the stage to begin the process of seeking regulatory approvals.
“UConn approached the process of negotiating this agreement with a commitment to serving the best long-term interests of the campus, its neighbors, and our region,” says Thomas Callahan, UConn’s associate vice president for infrastructure planning and strategic project management. “The agreement is consistent with UConn’s commitment to superior environmental performance and stewardship as critical pieces of the University’s academic and research advancements.”
UConn’s trustees voted Wednesday to authorize the administration to execute the document with Connecticut Water, whose proposal to provide water was the most environmentally sound and cost-effective option among those evaluated by the University earlier this year. The agreement was negotiated after the state Office of Policy and Management reviewed and accepted an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) about the project, a comprehensive document with extensive public review that was closely coordinated with the Town of Mansfield.
A long-term solution
The agreement provides a long-term solution for meeting the projected water supply requirements at the University’s Storrs campus, including the planned UConn Tech Park. A related agreement is being developed between CWC and Mansfield so that Connecticut Water will serve customers in Mansfield, including the Four Corners area.
“This agreement demonstrates the commitment of Connecticut Water and UConn to develop a long-term water supply solution for the region that is environmentally sound,” says Eric W. Thornburg, president and CEO of Connecticut Water.
“We are eager to partner with the University and the Town of Mansfield so the project can move forward on the anticipated schedule to support the initiatives planned for the area including the Tech Park, the Four Corners, and other economic development opportunities in the community,” he says. “We recognize the importance of this project and will work collaboratively with key stakeholders throughout the process.”
Callahan says the process of seeking state regulatory permits will begin in early 2014, and there will be various opportunities for public input in the regulatory process. The project is expected to be completed within 18 months of securing all required approvals.
The agreement calls for CWC to provide up to 1.5 million gallons of water daily as needed for the University over the 50-year planning horizon evaluated in the EIE. In addition, Connecticut Water will provide for all the water supply needs in their service area in Mansfield.
The company will bear the cost of building the pipeline from Tolland to Storrs with no contribution or surcharges borne by Mansfield, its residents, or UConn. The newly constructed pipeline will connect to UConn’s system at a point of connection provided by the University.
Once the connection is completed, Connecticut Water will maintain rates at their existing level for off-campus customers in Mansfield who are currently on UConn’s water system, who would become CWC customers once the project is complete. New customers in Mansfield would pay the rates in effect at that time, as authorized by the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
Connecticut Water will charge UConn a reduced rate, referred to as a State-Owned Infrastructure Rate, to reflect the state’s ownership and continued operation of the UConn system. CWC will also charge only for the water that UConn takes, without requiring the University to enter into a “take or pay” contract, which would have charged for a contracted amount whether it was used or not.
The company, the town, UConn, and nearby community representatives and other stakeholders will be asked to be part of a Water System Advisory Group, which will provide local input and ensure communication and collaboration relating to the Connecticut Water water system. The group will also make recommendations about best management practices, including water conservation programs, and Connecticut Water will work with the Advisory Committee to implement such programs.
UConn has a proven commitment to water conservation and environmental stewardship, and plans to bring that commitment to this process as well. Its conservation efforts, public awareness programs, and other initiatives – such as the newly opened water reclamation plant – have helped UConn save significant amounts of water. Campus water use has declined over the past decade, despite the growth in its population and the number of buildings served.