Drinking Water

Water Quality

We are committed to delivering high quality drinking water to our customers. OWASA is a member of the Partnership for Safe Water, a water industry association which promotes excellence in drinking water treatment and distribution systems.

In 2011, OWASA became the ninth water utility in the nation and the first in North Carolina, to receive the Partnership's "Excellence in Water Treatment Award" in recognition of OWASA’s commitment to maintaining the highest possible drinking water quality. In 2016, we celebrate our “5-Year Excellence in Water Treatment Award." Please click here for more information. 

In 2013, OWASA was one of the first utilities in the nation to receive the Partnership’s “Director’s Award” for optimizing operation and safety of the drinking water distribution system.

For details about our drinking water quality, please use the following links:

If you have any questions or comments about our drinking water or would like your OWASA drinking water tested, please contact our Water Treatment Plant Laboratory staff at (919) 537-4228 or WTPLaboratory@owasa.org

Water Supply

OWASA's water supply originates as rain in the Cane Creek and University Lake watersheds. A watershed is an area where all the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. As can be seen in this watershed map, about 90 percent of our watersheds are in Orange County. The remaining 10 percent of our watersheds are in Alamance and Chatham Counties.

Within these watersheds, water is stored in three reservoirs:

  • The Cane Creek Reservoir, which is about 9 miles west of Carrboro, can store about 3 billion gallons from its 32-square mile watershed and has a surface area of about 540 acres. More than 3,000 acres of watershed land is either owned by OWASA or protected through conservation easements.
  • University Lake, which is just west of Carrboro, can store about 450 million gallons from its 30-square mile watershed and has a surface area of about 200 acres.
  • The Quarry Reservoir, which is in the University Lake watershed about 3 miles west of Carrboro and can store about 200 million gallons. Beginning around 2030, we expect to expand the Quarry Reservoir to provide a capacity of at least 2.2 billion gallons. Filling the expanded quarry will take a few years. 
  • OWASA also has an allocation of 5 percent of Jordan Lake’s water supply storage capacity, which can yield about 5-6 million gallons per day (MGD). Jordan Lake will become increasingly important to OWASA in the event of severe drought or other emergency – especially in the 20+ years until the expanded Quarry Reservoir is on line. Retaining that allocation and gaining access to Jordan Lake is essential to meeting our customers' needs today and in the future.

The Cane Creek/University Lake/Quarry Reservoir system can support an average yield of about 10.5 million gallons per day (MDG) during severe drought conditions (current demand is about 7 MGD). For additional information about our water supply, including our future plans, please see our Long-Range Water Supply Plan.

Drinking Water System







Water treatment

While water in OWASA's reservoirs is very clean, it requires treatment before it is drinking water quality. Water is pumped from the reservoirs to the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant in Carrboro, where impurities are removed through chemical and physical processes. The Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant can treat up to 20 MGD.

Please visit our drinking water treatment and disinfection webpage for more information.

Water Distribution

The drinking water is pumped from the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant to water storage tanks and through a system of about 380 miles of pipes that are designed and operated to deliver an adequate volume of water at sufficient pressures to meet the demands of our customers including adequate flow for fire protection.

In 2018, OWASA was awarded the Presidents Award for Distribution System Operation from the Partnership for Safe Water. The award recognizes systems that meet the program's highly stringent optimization goals for distribution system water quality. OWASA is only the third utility in the United States, to date, to achieve this award. More information

For a video about our valve maintenance program, please click here.

Plans for water service interruptions and certain other work