On Earth Day, OWASA and UNC celebrate 10 years of water resiliency

More than 2.1 billion gallons of wastewater has been reclaimed by OWASA for sustainable use at UNC for non-drinking purposes such as in chiller plants and toilets – saving ample water, energy, and material resources – a triple win for the planet on Earth Day!

In 2009, OWASA and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill partnered to develop a reclaimed water system. The system provides UNC with recycled, or reclaimed, water (instead of treated drinking water) to meet university demands for water that is not for human consumption in a more sustainable way. For example, the University uses reclaimed water irrigate athletic fields on campus and in chiller plants to cool buildings. 

Reclaimed water is the clean water that is produced following the comprehensive treatment and disinfection of wastewater at OWASA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. In 2018, UNC used an average of 0.80 million gallons of reclaimed (recycled) water a day. That’s nearly one million gallons less raw water each day that OWASA needs to source from University Lake and Cane Creek Reservoir. In fact, over the past 10 years, the 2.1 billion gallons of wastewater that OWASA has reclaimed for use at UNC equates to the size of University Lake about five-times over. 

UNC pays OWASA the full cost to operate and maintain the reclaimed water system. This enables OWASA to cost-effectively meet UNC’s non-drinking water requirements, while freeing up the community’s drinking water supply and treatment capacity to meet other essential needs.

Overall, the use of reclaimed water decreases the energy used in the community’s water treatment process and lowers both OWASA’s and UNC’s greenhouse gas emissions; that’s something to celebrate! April 22 is Earth Day. On this day, learn more about how you can conserve and sustain water too.