A look into Purdue's water source, systems

October 5, 2010

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Water and Purdue's needs, sources and systems for water provide one of the most striking examples of how the campus is like a city for its users and residents. Proper and efficient treatment and transport of water involves numerous people. Here is a summary of how Purdue conducts its stewardship of water resources for a wide range of uses, and what each person can do.
Purdue's water source
Purdue maintains its own high-quality potable water supply. The water comes from the ground water aquifer known as the Wabash River Valley Aquifer (also known locally as the Teays River Valley Aquifer). From the aquifer, the water is pumped by nine onsite wells. Each of these wells produces approximately 600,000-700,000 gallons of water each day. In addition, the Purdue water tower has a 1.5 million gallon capacity of potable water.

Water use
Purdue's water supply is used for two major purposes -- human consumption and fire protection. A great deal of the University's domestic water supply is consumed inside campus buildings. Uses include food preparation, drinking fountains, showers, lavatories, swimming pools, research laboratories, eye washes, sprinkler systems, cooling computing network servers, and as a backup supply for the campus utility plant chillers. Outside water use includes landscape irrigation and fire hydrants.

Wastewater disposal
Because Purdue maintains its own water supply, it pays a relatively small price compared with many universities that acquire water from a public utility. The bulk of costs associated with water consumption are therefore not related to purchased water but to the disposal of the wastewater. All campus buildings are equipped with water meters to help provide the West Lafayette Wastewater Treatment Utility with accurate readings. Being able to track water usage allows campus staff to implement targeted water saving projects.

Storm water management program
Purdue continues to look for ways to help protect underground water resources and has begun implementation of a comprehensive storm water management program. Examples of campus storm water treatments include bioswales, permeable pavement, a rain garden, and a green roof at Schleman Hall. (Visit these campus storm water sites along today's Water Walk. View the map at www.purdue.edu/sustainability/greenweek/Water_walk.pdf.)

Protecting the campus water supply
A Purdue staff of certified water works operators maintains and oversees the campus water system. They maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and work closely with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to constantly sample and test for safety per IDEM guidelines. To supply campus customers with the safest possible product, water works operators chlorinate the water supply for disinfection of viruses and bacteria. Fluoride is added to enhance dental protection and bone strength and phosphates are also added for corrosion control and to reduce iron deposits. The levels of these additives are monitored daily.

Wellhead protection program
A comprehensive wellhead protection program further reduces pollutants into the aquifer. With this program, staff identify and closely manage contaminants on land near the campus well sites to protect the water supply and the environment.

Purdue University Water Works has joined together with the Indiana-American Water Co. and the City of West Lafayette to form a Local Area Planning Team for Wellhead Protection. This team of volunteers from the community is working hard to make sure the source of drinking water in the West Lafayette area remains safe.

How you can help
Participation in the Wellhead Protection Planning Team is welcomed. For more information on how to play an active role in maintaining safe drinking water in the community, call 49-62705 to join the Wellhead Protection Local Area Planning Team.

Visit the Purdue Extension Web site, "Safe Water for the Future," at www.ecn.purdue.edu/SafeWater for detailed information about wellhead protection, and what you can do to protect your water quality.

More questions about your water?
Information may be obtained by calling the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.