By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Monday, August 16, 2010

Water consumption at the

University of Virginia

has increased for the fifth consecutive year, according to data provided by university officials.

Usage on the UVa campus and the medical center increased by half a percentage point from 528.9 million gallons in fiscal 2009 to 531.29 million gallons in fiscal 2010. This figure does not include water purchased at buildings operated by the private

University of Virginia Foundation


Click to enlarge

“While the university continues to benefit from the many water conservation initiatives that have been implemented, the construction of energy- and water-intensive research and hospital facilities in the last couple of years is starting to cause an upward trend in water consumption,” wrote UVa’s director of utilities, Cheryl Gomez, in an e-mail to

Charlottesville Tomorrow


However, Gomez said, UVa’s overall water usage has become more efficient since 1999, when the school consumed 671.7 million gallons.

“Water usage in 2010 is down 21% from its peak in 1999 despite a 19.8% increase in gross square feet and a 15.7% increase in the number of faculty, staff, and students since that year,” Gomez wrote.

When viewed on a per capita basis, usage has dropped from 22,748 gallons per person in 1999 to 15,545 per person in 2010. During that time the population of people served increased from 28,705 to 34,176.

The city of


provides water to UVa under a contract that grants the university a special rate. This contract makes up 31.2 percent of the total water the city sells to its customers, according to Sharon O’Hare, a utilities analyst for the city. O’Hare added that the city does not track water usage per capita.

Download 1981 UVa water and sewer agreement

“I’m so impressed with the level of water conversation that UVa has attained in the past decade,” said Dede Smith of the group

Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan

. She points to the drop in per capita usage as an example of how water conservation measures can reduce overall water demand.

In its last academic year, UVa had a total of 14,297 undergraduates and 6,598 graduate students.

In 2004, the firm

Gannett Fleming

conducted a demand analysis that serves as the basis for the water supply plan currently being debated in the community. The analysis, which established a goal of 18.7 million gallons a day of available water supply, assumes that the university would grow by 100 students per year to reach an ultimate student population of 25,000 by 2055.

Download 2004 Demand Analysis conducted by Gannett Fleming

However, UVa officials have recently indicated that growth could occur more quickly.

At a July retreat, UVa’s governing body discussed the possibility of increasing enrollment to help the school’s finances in the face of state budget cutbacks. Austin Ligon, a member of the Board of Visitors, wrote a paper that outlines two scenarios in which the university would grow by 2,000 in five years or by 5,000 students over 10 years.

Ligon’s paper does not address how such increases would affect community infrastructure such as water supply. However, city, county and regional officials have begun to take notice.

Download Austin Ligon’s “New Financial Model Discussion Paper”

“We’re aware that [UVa] may be making some decisions that would mean more students at the university during our planning period than what had been projected in 2004,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority


Frederick said a review of the 2004 demand analysis commissioned by the RWSA will be available Friday. Swartz Engineering Economics was hired to determine whether the assumptions in the analysis are still valid, including how much growth UVa anticipates.

“It’s a factor we have to take into consideration, but it’s not the only one,” Frederick said.

Smith said growth at the university would not affect the community’s future water needs.

“Their growth has much less impact than that in the county,” Smith said. “It’s just a blip on the map of the water supply because UVa conserves water at a much higher rate.”

UVa officials could not be reached for comment.


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