Water & Stormwater

Drought Warning and Mandatory Water Restrictions

October 12, 2017

The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County issued drought warnings and mandatory water restrictions. These declarations are based on current reservoir levels, stream flow data, historical weather information, and future weather predictions. Restrictions apply to several activities, including irrigation, washing vehicles and pavement surfaces, filling swimming pools and operating decorative fountains, and serving water in restaurants. More information is available on the City of Charlottesville’s website.

The University of Virginia is committed to sustainable practices and water conservation year-round and we take seriously our obligations to conserve water, especially during this drought warning period. Staff in our Energy & Utilities group and Office for Sustainability are working closely with colleagues across the Grounds to comply with water restrictions and to develop alternative practices where they are necessary. Please see the recommended actions below to help conserve water.

Water Conservation Practices in Response to Drought Warning

  • All automatic irrigation systems have been turned off (Law, Darden, Northridge, Special Collections, Fontaine, MR-6 courtyard, South Lawn, The Lawn, AFC, and North Ground Recreation Center)
  • Watering of recently installed plant material is done manually between the hours of 9pm and 10am and only the minimal amount is applied to preserve the health of the plants.
  • Athletic fields will be watered only as necessary for safety and to preserve the turf, and done between 9pm and 10am.
  • Deferred all sod installation until the drought conditions have ended.
  • Seeding of turf continues where necessary to control erosion but no additional water is applied.
  • No washing of equipment, busses, vehicles, buildings, parking garages, sidewalks or patios.
    • Facilities Management has continued to strive to utilize water as efficiently as possible, actively combating the increasing water consumption due to construction of energy and water intensive research and hospital facilities. Under the UVA Sustainability Plan, a water reduction goal has been set, with a Water Action Plan under way to identify key strategies to meet the goal. The water conservation initiatives include increasing capabilities to detect leaks through better measurement, identifying potential ways to recapture water and encouraging faculty, staff, and students to reduce water usage through outreach efforts.



      There are over 150 miles of underground systems at UVA, of which, 37 miles are dedicated to domestic water, 76 miles are storm and sanitary sewer lines, 23 miles include steam, condensate and heating hot water, and 16 miles are chilled water.

      Water Use Reduction

      UVA Sustainability Goal: Reduce potable water use 25% below 2010 levels by 2035

      Total water usage in 2016 was down more than 23.4 percent from its peak in 1999 despite growth in population and area served. Since 2010, the baseline year, total water use is down 10.4 percent. This is due to water efficiency and conservation work in buildings plus water recovery projects such as collecting air conditioning condensate for use in the chiller plants.

      Chiller plants account for a quarter of the water used at the University. Efforts to reduce water consumption within these plants include condensate recovery, reverse osmosis purification of blowdown water, and spring water collection.

      The following measures have been taken to conserve water:

      • Converted all air handling systems using “once-through”, i.e. domestic water, cooling to chilled water use.
      • Converted most domestic water process cooling applications to use chilled water.
      • Installed low flow shower heads and toilets in most housing facilities.
      • Installed water and energy conserving laundry equipment at some housing facilities.
      • Installed underground water collection systems (cisterns).
      • Captured condensate from air handling units (air conditioning) to use for landscaping purposes.
      • Added a collection sump to collect water from condensation drains.
      • Installed a collection sump in the Chemistry building that collects condensate from the air handlers which is used as make-up water in the central chilled water plant cooling towers. This effort saves approximately 1 million gallons of water annually.

      Elimination of Water as a Cooling Source

      • Conducted a comprehensive survey of our facilities to discover greatest water use.
      • Identified air handling units (air conditioning) and water coolers that use domestic water as a source of cooling. U.Va replaced those and prohibited their future use.
      • Identified research and clinical equipment that used domestic water for cooling. U.Va installed process chilled water service to those units. This is water that is 100% re-circulated.

      Effective Measuring

      • Added water meters to buildings on grounds. This helps us to target our efforts and identify specific problems to make sure water is used efficiently.
      • Conducted an ultrasonic survey of the underground water distribution system. By surveying the water distribution system, E&U was able to identify and repair all leaks and update piping to ensure more efficient distribution of water.
      • Revised U.Va Building Design Guidelines to include low-flow fixtures and plumbing systems.
      • Implemented LEED water conservation standards in all new buildings.


      Addtional Information

      Water & Stormwater Working Group 2016-17 Projects

      • Created a functional bioretention area and improved pedestrian safety in the Clark Nook
      • Held a Beta Bridge stream cleanup to raise awareness of ongoing trash issues under Beta Bridge, where 50 volunteers collected 35 bags of recycling and 25 bags of trash
      • Purchased a portable water bar to be used at events, with the goal of reducing bottled water purchases (GIFT grant funded)
      • Co-sponsored a tour of the expanded Ragged Mountain Reservoir
      • Designed signage at the biofilter on Engineer’s Way (GIFT grant funded)


      Traditional stormwater management practices centered on quickly draining and piping away vast quantities of rainwater during storm events. Unfortunately, over-reliance on this practice at UVA and across the state had negative impacts on streams and waterways, including stream channel erosion, dispersal of pollutants, and alteration of the water cycle.


      Sustainable stormwater management can decrease runoff and erosion, improve water quality, increase infiltration of water into soil (thereby increasing uptake by plants), attract wildlife, and support a healthy water cycle for all resident species. In recent decades, the University has been working to implement innovative and sustainable stormwater management practices on Grounds. These include:

      • Catch basin and restored wetland forest at Dell Pond
      • Constructed wetland at Emmet/Ivy Parking Garage
      • Rain gardens, biofilters and vegetated swales
        • John Paul Jones Arena
        • Bice Parking Lot
        • South Lawn Complex
        • Campbell Hall
        • Printing and Copying Services Addition
        • Clinical Lab Building
      • Green roofs to absorb rainfall
        • Robertson Hall
        • Claude Moore Nursing Education Building
        • South Lawn Complex
      • Cisterns to capture and store rainwater for landscape irrigation
        • Amphitheater
        • Hunter Smith Band Building
        • South Lawn Complex


      Join the Water Working Group or Storm Water Working Group of the Environmental Impact Sub-Committee – contact sustainability@virginia.edu for more info.

      Take part in the World Water Day Symposium, an international day to bring attention to water conservation. World Water Day at UVA focuses on global, local, and personal aspects of various water issues and educates participants on everything from what watersheds are to ways we can reduce water consumption. Learn more »


      Some water-related courses at UVA include: Water Sustainability, Water for the World, Stormwater Management, Fluid Mechanics, Physical Hydrology, Limnology: Inland Water Ecosystems, Paleohydrology, Land-atmosphere Interaction, Green Lands


      The UVA Bay Game is a large-scale participatory simulation based on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It serves as a platform for education, research, and policy applications that bridge the virtual and real worlds for watershed conservation.

      Environmental Sciences Hydrology department member Matthew Reidenbach’s research mainly involves environmental fluid dynamics which has implications for economic losses and the vulnerability of coastal communities to climate variability, flooding, and sea level rise.

      Systems and Information Engineering department member Garrick Louis’s research focuses on potable water supply and wastewater treatment in developing countries. Environmental Sciences Ecology department member Karen McGlathery’s research concerns the impacts of external stressors, such as changes in global climate and watershed land use, on biotic structure and ecosystem processes in shallow coastal regions.

      Civil Engineering department member Lisa Colosi Peterson’s research focuses on improving the efficiency and efficacy of wastewater treatments for removal of certain organic contaminants.