Water Reuse at UConn Sets Standard for Future Reclamation Projects

Water Reuse at UConn Sets Standard for Future Reclamation Projects

According to the National Academy of Sciences, 32 billion gallons of municipal wastewater is discharged nationwide each day. Available technology provides us with the opportunity to treat wastewater for safe potable or nonpotable uses. More widespread water reuse would significantly reduce the strain on our nation’s freshwater resources.

Reuse Projects on the Rise

Water reclamation projects have been more prevalent in the western United States where an arid climate and competing interests for water resources require extraordinary measures. In the Northeast, where water supplies have historically been plentiful, communities with an increasing population or industrial density are starting to experience water shortages. In addition, climate change may alter New England’s fresh water supply. Rising temperatures, especially hotter summers, will have an impact on surface and groundwater resources. To address these challenges, organizations, communities, and government agencies are working to reduce the burden on water sources and challenged ecosystems.

Willimantic River

The RWF reduces the amount of treated wastewater discharged to the Willimantic River.

One organization taking a progressive approach to water supply protection is the University of Connecticut (UConn). A number of water supply studies showed that over time the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus water demand would exceed local supply.

During a drought period in 2005, a portion of the Fenton River ran dry, which was in part attributed to elevated withdrawals from the Fenton wellfield during the University’s seasonal peak demand. To address this challenge, conservation measures, streamflow monitoring, and withdrawal management protocols were put in place; however, the University sought a reliable alternative strategy to meet its current and future water needs. The solution was to design a sustainable reclaimed water facility (RWF) that would reduce its need to draw on local sources, provide for increased future demand, and preserve natural resources.

UConn’s Reclaimed Water Facility Provides Benefits

The RWF, which is operated by Woodard & Curran, takes effluent from the University-operated Water Pollution Control Facility and treats it through a tertiary process, including screening, microfiltration, and UV disinfection.

The non-potable water is then stored in a 1-MGD storage tank and pumped, when needed, via 3 miles of distribution pipe to the Storrs campus Central Utility Plant (CUP) for use in its cooling tower, chilled water system, and (with some additional treatment) high-pressure boilers.

UConn CUP

Reclaimed water is used at the CUP/CoGen power plant.

“Everyone involved in the utilities operations on campus is working hard to make the most of this closed water cycle,” said Rob Scott, Project Manager at the RWF. “UConn has made a major investment in the system, and it puts them at the forefront of water reuse in New England.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, electric power plants alone account for nearly half of the water withdrawn annually in the United States. Irrigation accounts for nearly thirty percent of withdrawals nationwide. Implementing a reclaimed water system to supply its CUP and future irrigation needs enables UConn to direct its groundwater resources to the drinking water system, which will significantly ease demand on source waters. During peak seasons, the University will reduce its potable water demand by up to 40%. Reclaiming effluent from the WPCF also reduces the amount of treated wastewater discharged to the Willimantic River.

Municipalities will face the same source water issues, and conservation measures may not be enough. Wastewater reuse technology is one means to address the challenges ahead.

More information and a facility brochure can be found on the University’s Office of Environmental Policy website.

UConn_RWF_process

The reclamation process consists of screening, microfiltration, and ultraviolet disinfection, which allows UConn to divert a maximum of 1 million gallons of non-potable water each day to meet campus needs that do not require fresh water. The reclaimed water system is a semi-closed loop.

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