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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Not to Blame for Water Depletion

Area went to Stage 2 restrictions Friday.

Nonetheless, University officials said precautions still are being taken to conserve water.

On Friday, the Orange Water and Sewer Authority started enforcing Stage 2 water restrictions in response to the worst drought the area has ever experienced.

Stage 2 restrictions limit certain kinds of outdoor water use. For instance, residents are limited to watering with hoses or sprinklers one day per week.

The average weekly water use in August was about 11 million gallons until last week, when it went up to 12.7 million gallons.

Greg Feller, OWASA's director of public affairs, said students' arrival to Chapel Hill is not the only factor in the past week's increase.

Because there has been so little rain, outdoor water use has increased, Feller said. "The hotter and dryer it is, the more water is used," he said.

Carolyn Elfland, UNC's vice chancellor for campus services, said there was no substantial rainfall the week before students came back, a possible reason for the increase.

"When it doesn't rain, the consumption goes up anyway," Elfland said. "Consumption is more tied to rain than to students coming back."

Feller cited a record day in June, when most students had left campus, on which about 16 million gallons of water were used -- 3 million gallons more than the daily average for that month. He said that was a clear example of why he thinks students on campus haven't affected recent water usage.

Ed Kerwin, OWASA's executive director, said that if the demand level experienced in the past week does not decrease by the end of this week, the next level of water restrictions could be enforced.

"If we have another week of high demand, we are probably days -- not weeks -- away from moving to the next level," Kerwin said.

But he added that it would have to be dry in addition to the high demand in order to move to Stage 3.

Elfland said the University is following OWASA's guidelines, though UNC is not subject to the restrictions because it is a state agency.

"However, obviously we are very concerned about the water situation," Elfland said. "And the governor also enlisted an executive order for all government agencies."

Elfland said these restrictions are more limiting than OWASA's.

The University has taken a number of measures to cut water usage, including discontinuing outdoor planting, turning off water fountains and experimenting with water-free urinals, Elfland said.

She said UNC also is cutting back on irrigation, only watering the roots of old trees in McCorkle and Polk places rather than the full lawns.

Elfland also said a team of University engineers has been meeting with OWASA engineers to find a way to use processed water from OWASA for the University's Cogeneration Facility, a combined heat and power facility, which currently uses drinking water.

The effects of the drought are being felt all over campus, even complicating construction, Elfland said.

She said that to test the plumbing in buildings, water must be run through the pipes.

"(The drought) could get really broad-reaching in its effects."

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