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Earth Day 2022 marks the release of our Water Plan, which explains how we’re reducing our water footprint. More specifically, it details the University’s accomplishments, current goals, and visions for a future of water sustainability. Because water is a finite resource and we face challenges to water quality and availability, it’s imperative that the University has a roadmap for water conservation.

Current water conservation strategies being used at UNC-Chapel Hill include increasing the share of non-potable water (reclaimed water), maintaining stormwater quality, and improving water efficiency across campus. Innovations like green roofs, permeable pavement, and stream daylighting help maintain stormwater quality help reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality. Examples of water efficiency projects on campus include installation of low-flow sinks, showerheads, and toilets, along with fixing leaky pipes.

Our work to increase our use of non-potable water on campus resulted from our partnership with Orange Water and Sewer Authority. OWASA and UNC-Chapel Hill have an interesting past. More than 45 years ago, the University owned OWASA’s infrastructure. Today, we’re the nonprofit’s largest customer — and a valued partner.

In 2009, the reclaimed water system marked the biggest partnership project to date. After droughts in 2001-2002 and 2007-2008 caused extreme water shortages on campus, the University saw a need to invest in reclaimed water. Today, the system brings treated wastewater back to campus for uses like irrigation, toilet flushing, and building cooling.

This partnership illustrates our focus on reducing our water footprint. The Water Plan shows how we’ll continue to embrace water sustainability into the future, with coordination from University operations and innovation from research teams. To view the plan in its entirety and download a PDF version, visit our Water Plan webpage.


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