Water Conservation

Drought Duke Forest
A section of low flow in New Hope Creek running through Duke Forest - Photo credit: Courtesy Duke Forest

Recent Initiatives

Conservation measures identified by a water audit of 6 buildings in 2012 are expected to produce an 8 million gallon reduction in water consumption each year at Duke. A new reclamation pond will collect rainwater and runoff from 22 percent of the main campus area for use in a nearby chilled water plant, which pumps water across campus to cool buildings.  The pond is expected to save about 100 million gallons of potable water a year.  Duke is also helping to improve the watershed it relies on through a stream restoration project on campus.

2007 Drought Initiatives

In October of 2007, The North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council (NCDMAC) listed Durham County, along with 54 other counties, in the highest category of D4- Exceptional Drought. As a result of the extremely dry conditions experienced by the entire state, Duke University convened Water Conservation Steering & Working Groups, which analyzed all potable water use on campus.

Duke implemented many water conservation initiatives, including the installation of tanks that can gather and hold up to 10,000 gallons of storm, cistern and reclaimed water.  Duke also distributed 10,000 free low-flow showerheads to faculty, staff and off-campus students.  

Sustained Conservation

Through dedicated efforts on campus, Duke reduced its water use by 50 percent month over month from the previous year during the drought.  In the years following the drought, there has been an estimated sustained reduction in water consumption of 35 percent.  While many of the measures below were first initiated during the drought, they continue to contribute to sustained water conservation on campus.

Conservation Measures – Buildings

  • Installed over 3,000 low-flow aerators on lavatories
  • Installed over 3,000 low-flow flush valves on urinals and toilets
  • Installed over 500 low-flow shower heads
  • Corrected single pass cooling on lab equipment
  • Installed hand sanitizers in residential hall bathrooms, kitchens, laundry room and common areas
  • Installed 200 new high efficiency front load washing machines
  • Modified sterilizers at all Duke University Medical Center facilities
  • Performed a water audit on campus buildings
  • LEED green building commitment

Conservation Measures – Central Plants

  • Piped the reclaimed reverse osmosis water (RO) and air handler unit (AHU) condensate from campus buildings to use for make-up water in the Chilled Water Plant cooling towers
  • Installed a RO system on the cooling tower blowdown to clean this water and reuse in the cooling towers
  • Drilled two wells to provide tower make up water
  • Pumping water out of the creek for cooling tower make up
  • Installed a condensate transfer system to move condensate between East and West Steam Plants
  • Alternate sources of water accounted for over 40 million gallons of water (33%) in FY10 at Chilled Water Plant 2

Reclaimed WaterConservation Measures – Irrigation

  • Installed drought-tolerant landscaping on campus
  • Designed temporary system to irrigate essential athletic fields that involves the use of reclaimed water.  Tanks installed under the bleachers at Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium
  • Installed cisterns to collect water for watering of Williams Field
  • Increased the size of irrigation ponds on golf course to allow for more natural water storage

Conservation Measures – Educational and Community

  • Supplied the University and Medical Center staff, employees and students with 10,000 free low flow shower heads for their homes (total savings of ~73 million gallons of water)
  • Raise water conservation awareness by strategically placing signs at decision-making points like faucets, showers, water fountains and toilets
  • Several of the monthly Green Devil Challenges have focused on water conservation.  Check out the challenges from August 2010 and August 2011

For additional steps taken to reduce water used for irrigation and landscaping, see Land Management.