The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday November 26th

University Cuts Down Water Use

Officials make efforts to adhere to area guidelines.

Although the University is exempt from town requirements because it is a state institution, officials have taken actions to decrease the amount of water used on campus by the same amount.

The University, including UNC Hospitals, is OWASA's largest customer, using 30 percent of the organization's water supply.

In 2001, UNC used 837 million gallons of water, most of which was directed toward utilities and research laboratories.

Dean Bresciani, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said it is the University's duty as a large consumer of water to approach the problem as comprehensively as possible.

"It is in our best interest as well as the town's best interest to approach this situation aggressively," he said.

"If we run out of water, we all run out of water."

Residence Hall Association President Joanna Jordan said the Department of Housing and Residential Education has created a committee to discuss potential measures to reduce water use, including turning off water fountains and ice machines.

Other measures -- like shutting down air conditioning in certain buildings -- will not be merely suggested but mandated.

Ray DuBose, director of energy services, said UNC's air-conditioning system relies on water to remove heat from rooms during the cooling process.

But this heated water evaporates, contributing to water loss.

He said energy services has compiled a list of buildings where air conditioning can be shut off without harmful effects.

Because areas like research laboratories and high-technology buildings are poor candidates, there is a strong chance that residence halls with central air conditioning might be some of the committee's prime targets.

DuBose said although these efforts might not make a huge difference -- especially as cooler weather approaches -- even the smallest efforts will help.

The Department of Athletics is another major consumer of water, primarily using its supply to maintain athletic fields.

Steve Kirschner, associate athletic director of communications, said workers are only watering Kenan Stadium and Fetzer Field because these facilities are most in use at this time.

Water is being transported from outside sources instead of coming from field sprinklers, he said.

Kirschner said watering fields is a safety issue rather than an aesthetic one because athletes are more prone to injury when competing on poorly-maintained grass.

"We don't want kids tearing up a knee or breaking an ankle out there," he said.

"If the grass turns brown but is still safe, it's not an issue. The issue is safety."

Despite the conservation efforts geared toward student life and activities, Bresciani said he thinks it is important to recognize the University as both an academic and research institution.

While initiatives like limited air conditioning and water fountains might be inconvenient for students and faculty, he said the potential damage to University research programs from a limited water supply could be irreversible.

"The implications of research not done or grants not received are hard to fathom," he said.

"Research is priceless."

Robert Lowman, associate vice chancellor for research, said science laboratories are taking their own measures to avoid such problems.

Laboratory research is the number two use of water at the University, with large amounts used during chemical processes, as well as the cleaning and sterilization of laboratory materials.

Lowman said a recent departmental memorandum included common sense suggestions like turning off the water during procedures and only running full dishwashers of used equipment.

Ed Kerwin, executive director of OWASA, said he is pleased by the extensive actions of University officials. But those actions will only be beneficial if it is taken seriously by students and faculty alike, he said.

"At the end of the day, we rely on the behavior of individual people."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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