FEATURE Blazing trails in water resiliency
Duke develops future best practices in water
management for campus utilities.
Daniel Allison, Senior Environmental Planner and Business Development Manager,
Duke University’s stormwater reclamation pond.
Duke University is well-known for many things. Its five national championships in NCAA men’s basketball, nationally recognized medical
school and multitude of scholars
(including nine Nobel laureates) are
just a few things that come to mind.
With the recent completion of a new
campus water supply project and
aggressive future plans to enhance
campus water resiliency, the university is now turning heads in another
category: sustainable water management in district energy systems.
After nearly two years of con-
struction, the university completed
its innovative stormwater reclama-
tion pond this spring. This pond will
not only offset the environmental
impacts of campus stormwater
runoff but also serve as a primary
makeup source for Duke’s district
utility systems. The pond is expected
to reduce the campus potable water
footprint by as much as 100 million
gal annually – nearly 50 percent of
the total campus heating and cool-
ing demand for water, i.e., in cooling
towers and boilers.
With the project now in its commissioning phase, the university has
not stopped thinking about water
resiliency and environmental stewardship. Taking the lead from Emory
University in Atlanta, Ga., Duke is
now investigating how campus-scale
wastewater reclamation can complement its new stormwater reclamation system.
A NEED FOR SUSTAINABLE WATER
Duke’s main campus, located
in Durham, N.C., is no stranger to
water stress and drought. In 2007,
Durham’s hydraulic service area
witnessed some of the worst drought
conditions ever recorded. Over a two-
year period, North Carolina experi-
enced record-setting heat waves and
witnessed some of the driest months
ever recorded in state history. Nearly
every county in North Carolina was
affected by the drought, and 38 dif-
ferent water service providers were
forced to issue water use restrictions.
WHEN DUKE SEARCHED FOR
OPPORTUNITIES TO LESSEN
THE IMPACT OF DROUGHT, THE
CONCEPT OF A CAMPUS POND
FEEDING CENTRAL UTILITY
PLANTS WAS BORN.
With Lake Michie Reservoir
levels 14 ft below capacity and the
Little River nearly 26 ft lower than
typical high water levels, the city
of Durham issued a “Stage IV –
Severe” mandatory water conservation restriction in December 2007.
The restriction set out to reduce
daily water demands by 30 percent throughout the city, with all
businesses required to participate.
Duke’s campus was not exempt
from these restrictions. Despite drastic cuts in extraneous water uses,
the university struggled to reduce
campus water demands without
Courtesy Duke University.