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The Daily Tar Heel

University cuts water usage 60 percent

Senior Writer

UNC has been greener in the past few years.

The University reduced its potable water use by 60 percent per square foot since 2000, despite seeing an increase of more than 2,000 residential students.

Cindy Shea, director of the UNC Sustainability Office, said some new buildings on campus collect rainwater for toilet-flushing systems to cut drinking water use.

Currently, the North Carolina Botanical Garden Visitor Center, Kenan Memorial Stadium and Genome Science Building are using these systems to recycle rainwater.

But when rainwater is insufficient, the University uses reclaimed water as a backup.

UNC already uses reclaimed water from the local water and sewer authorities for cooling at the five central chilled plants on campus.

Shea said the University is hoping to use similar systems on new buildings in the future. And she said the University’s efforts to cut water usage on campus have been very successful.

“We have a target of 20 percent, and we have already exceeded that,” she said.

UNC’s usage reduction helped earn it a rank of 15th out of more than 150 participating colleges and universities in the “Cool Schools” ranking by Sierra magazine, a bimonthly periodical published by the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental group.

Jamie Bartram, director of the Water Institute at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, said the University has done a good job improving existing facilities to cut water use, despite the age of many buildings on campus.

“It’s important to recognize we are an old campus,” he said. “We’ve got old buildings, and we have to adapt as we go, so our ability to move quickly is limited.”

Bartram said that he thinks the University could invest more in stormwater management.

Junior Shelby Hammerstein is the co-chairwoman of Students Working for Environmental Action and Transformation, a Campus Y committee that promotes environmental awareness on campus. She said the organization wants to raise students’ consciousness about water usage this year.

“(Sixty percent) is a huge reduction, and we are very proud of that,” Hammerstein said. “It’s not just talking about having enough water itself, but talking about reducing the energy usage that comes from moving water from place to place.”

Junior Sandrine Charles, another co-chairwoman of the committee, said making small changes like using reusable water bottles and shortening showers would help the University cut its water usage.

“From here, it’s just about looking at even smaller things that we could do,” Hammerstein said.

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