Audit To Help Drain Water Use

Duke will cut up to 8 million gallons of water a year

Part of the Sustainable Duke Series
This chart shows potential water savings for domestic water use, not total building water use, in six academic buildings that were part of a water audit by Facilities Management.
This chart shows potential water savings for domestic water use, not total building water use, in six academic buildings that were part of a water audit by Facilities Management.

This spring, Duke employees took back the tap, the toilet and the urinal.

In an effort  to help cut water use on campus, Duke's Facilities Management Department oversaw a water audit last August to identify potential water-saving opportunities, which included updating faucets, toilets and showers in six academic buildings. With hundreds of retrofits and a couple dozen replacements, Duke is expected to save up to 8 million gallons of potable water per year, while also cutting some energy to heat hot water.

From March 11 to April 3, crews went from bathroom-to-bathroom in each building and changed valves in 353 toilets, 120 urinals and 1,299 faucets while replacing 27 toilets and urinals to allow for a lower, more efficient flow of water.

"The work wasn't anything fancy, but it will lead to significant water savings," said Casey Collins, energy engineer with Facilities Management and the project's manager. "No one will notice any functional difference in restrooms or labs, either."

The six buildings identified as top water users and selected for the conservation measures included the Bryan Center, French Family Science Center, Fuqua School of Business, Physics Building, Levine Science Research Center and the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS).

While the project cost $150,000 to complete, it's expected to save up to $120,000 a year in water and energy costs for Duke.  The average decrease in domestic water use across all the buildings impacted from changes is projected at 23 percent.

To test the efficiency of each unit, crews measured how much water would flow from a faucet in 10 to 15 seconds and captured the amount of water used in teach toilet or urinal flush. Armed with the data, Facilities was able to determine which valves or electric sensors needed to be fixed or replaced.

Collins said laboratories generally use a lot of water for research and experiments and he hopes to see a decrease in water use because of the project. Labs typically have two different faucets - one for high purity water for research and another with city-provided water for everyday use.

"We didn't touch the high-purity faucets, but we retrofitted others with an aerator that helps to restrict the flow of water a little," Collins said. "It's perfect for hand washing or rinsing instruments because it restricts enough to make a difference but doesn't impact functionality."

Casey Roe, outreach coordinator for Sustainable Duke, said Facilities' latest project fits perfectly with other steps Duke has taken to educate on water conservation.

"As a large institution within Durham's watershed, it's important for us to reduce our consumption any way we can on campus," Roe said. "Teaching about the use of less water is part of our Green Workplace Certification, campus events and even signage around campus. Smaller actions add up."