Resource Management & Sustainability

The health and welfare of our customers, community, and local economy rely on OWASA's ability to deliver a reliable supply of high quality drinking water and to provide wastewater services that protect the public's health and environment. OWASA will continue meeting this challenge in a sustainable manner through continuous improvement in all areas of our operation.

OWASA's Mission, Vision and Values Statement identifies the importance of sustainability in all that we do:

We embrace the principles of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. We strive to make the highest and best use of our local water resources and to promote conservation of water, energy, and other natural resources.

OWASA's Statement of Sustainability Goal and Objectives defines our sustainability vision and values and addresses six key areas: Environmental Performance, Resource Stewardship, Materials Use, Social Performance, Our Employees, and Economic Performance.

In October 2014, OWASA received a national award for Sustainable Water Utility Management from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. For more information, please click here.

These sustainability and resource stewardship efforts cross all areas of our organization – from purchasing (hybrid vehicles, recycled products, etc.) – to materials recycling – to the use of renewable energy (biodiesel fuel for vehicles, methane gas from biosolids treatment, etc.). Key plans and strategies now in place include:

Resource Stewardship

  • Energy management. We continue to pursue cost-effective opportunities to reduce energy use and costs, such as replacing older equipment with more efficient units and installing more efficient lighting and temperature controls. We are developing an Energy Management Program which will guide our future efforts and investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.  We welcome your questions, comments, and feedback regarding this. 
  • On January 10, 2013, the OWASA Board adopted a Drought Response Operating Protocol (DROP), which describes OWASA’s procedures and criteria for making water supply and demand management decisions in an extended drought. To read the DROP, please click here. For the Board’s resolution, please click here.
  • Our 2010 Long-Range Water Supply Plan indicates that with the planned expansion of the Quarry Reservoir, our locally protected water supplies can meet most expected needs through 2060 under most circumstances. We are pursuing the option to cost-effectively use our 5 million gallon a day water storage allocation from Jordan Lake as an “insurance policy” for times of severe drought, facility failure or other emergency.
  • We are updating the Long-Range Water Supply Plan. Please click here for more information including the project charter and a link to sign up for electronic notices.
  • In accord with State requirements, OWASA has a Water Shortage Response Plan.
  • Our Long-Term Water Conservation and Demand Management Program Goal and Objectives guide OWASA's efforts to develop, fund and implement a cost-effective water conservation and demand management program that will meet our community's long-term water supply needs by making the highest and best use of local water resources and eliminating the need for costly new water supply sources and facilities.
  • Our increasing block water rates, seasonal water rates and water rate surcharges in droughts have helped achieve substantial reductions in water use across all customer classes, thereby reducing our vulnerability to severe droughts and enabling OWASA to defer expensive capital projects.  
  • For information on improvements at our Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant which reduced electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, please click here.
  • In accord with federal requirements, OWASA is implementing a State-approved forestry management plan at our  490-acre Cane Creek Reservoir Mitigation Tract near Buckhorn and Mount Willing Roads. Please click here for more information. OWASA purchased the Mitigation Tract to offset the loss of wildlife habitat as required in the Federal permit for construction of the Cane Creek Reservoir.

Financial and Asset Management

  • Our Financial Management Policy establishes OWASA's practices and policies for general financial management including reserve funding and debt service coverage, asset management, investment, debt, rate-setting and customer care. Our 15-Year Financial Management Plan identifies projected operating and capital improvement costs, debt payments, customer demands and potential rate increases needed to sustainably manage the community's water, sewer, and reclaimed water systems and to provide reliable, high quality services.
  • Our Annual Budget is the formal, Board-approved plan that shows anticipated revenues and specifies how our financial resources will be invested or allocated in a given fiscal year. The Annual Budget is our near-term “financial roadmap” for prioritizing and carrying out OWASA's objectives and programs. Expenditures include operating and maintenance expenses, debt service payments and capital expenditures. Revenues include operating revenues (primarily from monthly water, sewer and reclaimed water charges) and non-operating revenues (such as fees received for new connections, interest earnings and grant funds). OWASA is required by law to maintain a balanced budget. To the extent possible, the Annual Budget is established to achieve the financial performance targets in our Financial Management Policy.

    OWASA's fiscal year begins on July 1st and ends on June 30th of the following year. We are not allowed to expend any moneys, regardless of their source (including funds from bond proceeds, federal, state, or private grants or loans or special assessments), except in accord with the Annual Budget.

    In accord with State law, an independent auditor prepares an Annual Audit of OWASA's finances. The audit complies with accepted reporting and accounting standards, and our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report has received the Government Finance Officers Association's Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.
  • Our water, sewer and reclaimed water rates and fees are based on the principle that the customers who benefit from our services should pay the full costs that OWASA incurs to provide those services.
  • Our Capital Improvements Program (CIP) identifies the water and sewer system improvements we expect to undertake in the next five years. These projects include rehabilitation and replacement work needed to ensure the structural integrity and reliability of our facilities, as well as capacity expansions to support the planned growth of our service area as determined by the Towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and UNC Hospitals. Our CIP includes projects identified from our asset management evaluations, such as our Water Main Replacement Prioritization Model and our Sewer System Evaluation Studies

    Listen to OWASA's Engineering Manager, Vishnu Gangadharan discuss OWASA's Capital Improvements Program with WCHL's Aaron Keck
  • Each fall, OWASA prepares an Annual Review and Update of Strategic Trends and Master Plan Issues.
  • Optimization studies at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant and Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant have and will continue to improve performance and reduce chemical and energy use and associated costs.