Efficiencies in Water Use and Reuse
The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) has had an active water recovery program since the 1980s. UEM currently saves more than 100 million gallons of potable water each year through innovative uses of alternative water sources, and in the history of the program, the university has recovered more than 1.3 billion gallons. These alternative sources include groundwater and air conditioning condensate water recovered from building cooling systems. Our newest chilling station, located at Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Red River, will join Chilling Station 5 in being fed primarily with alternative sources of water.
Since 2013, UEM has also been using reclaimed water from the City of Austin. This reclaimed water, which is significantly lower in cost than potable water, is highly treated municipal wastewater and is used for making up evaporative losses in some campus cooling towers. UEM is also working with Landscape Services in Facilities Services on a project to use reclaimed water for landscape irrigation. This small site at the northeast corner of Dean Keeton St. and San Jacinto Blvd. will be an ideal area to learn how to use reclaimed water for landscape irrigation.
- Overall, alternative sources now account for about one-third of the water used in providing utilities to campus.
- Annual water savings through use of alternative water sources is roughly equivalent to the amount of water used by 925 average Austin households in a year.
- In the past ten years, UEM has avoided buying over 600 million gallons of drinking water through the use of recovered and reclaimed water—435 million of it in the past five years as reclaimed water became available.
- The water savings add up to dollar savings as well. UEM has saved the university over $2 million from fiscal years 2012 through 2016 by using recovered and reclaimed water.
- As the university’s power plant has become increasingly efficient, the rate of water use has decreased to amounts well below industry standards. Increased efficiency has resulted in an estimated water savings of 133 million gallons over the past ten years. That’s approximately 16 months’ worth of power plant water usage.
- Although chilled water consumption on campus has remained relatively stable over the past ten years, efficiencies have resulted in a 15 percent decline in the total amount of water needed to provide the same level of cooling.