What Starts Here Changes The World | The University of Texas at Austin

Mechanical Distribution

Our Services

Our Mechanical Distribution division provides the following services to almost every building on the main campus:

  • Water
  • Wastewater
  • Storm drainage
  • Deionized water
  • Steam
  • Natural gas
  • Compressed air service
  • Recovered water (one of our water conservation measures)


Water Recovery

We’ve had an active water recovery program since the 1980s. We recover water that has been used for cooling laboratory equipment, swimming pool drain water, groundwater, and air conditioning condensate, and use it to offset evaporation in our cooling towers. No recycled water is used for drinking, flushing or any other "domestic" purpose.

In the history of the program, the university has recycled more than 1.3 billion gallons. This is enough water to fill about 50,000 residential swimming pools. We are always looking for more water to reuse.

Reuse or Reclaimed Water

In March 2013, the university began using highly treated wastewater for making up evaporative losses in some campus cooling towers. This will allow the university to replace consumption of about 400 million gallons of drinking water per year with non-potable water, helping to lessen the burden on city’s infrastructure and offsetting some of the cost of potable water production by the city. While this water is not dangerous to incidental contact, it is non-potable and it should not be consumed by humans or pets.

Water Conservation in Outdoor Fountains

We continue to reduce water use in the university’s decorative fountains. Almost all the fountains on campus are the recirculating type that use the minimum amount of water. We monitor the water usage of all the outdoor fountains and look for leaks or incorrect adjustments if water use goes up.


Our department maintains more than seven miles of sanitary sewers throughout the campus. We have implemented a program to clean and inspect the entire system every five years. When repairs are needed, we sometimes use an innovative repair technology called “cured-in-place pipe” or CIPP. CIPP is one of several available technologies used to rehabilitate aging infrastructure. CIPP creates a new “pipe within a pipe” without having to excavate. For more information about how this technology has been applied on our campus, read a sewer rehab article from APPA magazine.


How much water does the campus consume annually and where do we get it?

The university uses more than 800 million gallons of water per year. Water is supplied by the City of Austin through a large network of meters and piping around campus.

How many gallons of water have been recovered since the launch of the water recovery program?

We’ve recovered more than 1.3 billion gallons since beginning the program in the 1980s.

Why does the water in Waller Creek sometimes look fluorescent green or yellow?

Utilities and Energy Management periodically tests sewer lines using a small quantity (about a tablespoon) of a harmless, environmentally-safe dye. Some of this dye may enter the creek. It looks like antifreeze, but the dye will not harm people or any of the living creatures in the creek.

How can I help with the water recovery effort?

If you know of some lab equipment that uses water for cooling and the water goes down a drain, please call 512-471-5050.