Water & Stormwater

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. 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 U.Va., 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.

The following gives a representation of the University’s water use since 1997:

U.Va.’s Water Use Goals

  • Reduce water use to 40% below the 1999 levels by 2025
  • Protect waterways

Potable Water Use

As of fiscal year 2014, total potable water usage was down more than 32% from the 1999 peak despite an almost 30% increase in gross square feet and an almost 19% increase in the number of faculty, staff, and students since that year.

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

    Water Use Reduction

  • 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

    Water Recovery

  • 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


Additional Information

Water Working Group 2013-2014 Annual Report (pages 10-13) »


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 U.Va. 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 rooftop 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 U.Va. 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 U.Va. include: Water Sustainability, Water for the World, Stormwater Management, Fluid Mechanics, Physical Hydrology, Limnology: Inland Water Ecosystems, Paleohydrology, Land-atmosphere Interaction, Green Lands


The U.Va 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.