STORRS – The Office of Environmental Policy for the University of Connecticut is conducting a water supply study (EIE) to identify and implement a long-term source of between 500,00 to 1 million gallons of water a day to service new and existing development projects on and off the Storrs campus.
In late August 2011, Governor Malloy authorized the state to borrow $18 million to begin the design and build out of a new bioscience technology park on the University’s north campus in rural Storrs. A major obstacle to the construction of the tech park, and that of other planned real estate developments in the town, is water.
In May 2011, The University’s Water Conservation Plan revealed for the first time that the University does not have enough water for all current and planned real estate development projects and must find additional sources of water. The University has committed to provide an additional 357,700 gallons per day to four proposed developments (only): the North Campus, the Depot Campus, the new Storrs Downtown, and the King Hill Road project.
Currently, the University relies upon eight wells along the Fenton River Wellfield and the Willimantic River Wellfield for all its water needs.
The EIE plans to evaluate several potential sources of new water. One possible source is an interconnection with nearby Shenipsit Reservoir through the Town of Tolland. The other possible source is an interconnection with the Willimantic Reservoir operated by Windham Water Works, and the third is a new ground water source in the aquifers along the Fenton River.
Complicating the search for additional water is the University’s nebulous status as a water system. According to the statutory definition under CT General Statute (CGS) Section 25-32a, the University is not a water company, and does not operate fully within the statutory regulations as a private water company.
While the University complies with the requirements and other portions of the regulations voluntarily when possible, the fact remains that as the controller of its own water system, it enjoys extra legal status with regard to the development and disposition of its watershed lands, wellfield mapping, record keeping, and pricing.
In January 2001, State Senator Donald Williams, and then Mansfield Representative, Denise Merrill, proposed Substitute Bill No. 128 specifically naming the University of Connecticut as a water company affording residents of Storrs the same rights and protections as that of any other other city or town in Connecticut, but the bill was never adopted.
During a long period of drought, and the return of students to the campus in August 2005, a quarter mile of the Fenton River ran dry resulting in a major fish kill. As a result of this ecological disaster, the University was ordered by the Department of Public Health to hire the Connecticut Water Company to manage its water system. The University has since voluntarily undertaken water conservation measures, the construction of a new Reclaimed Water Facility, and, a long-term plan of study to manage its utilization. But, its status as a non-regulated water system remains.
Patricia Suprenant graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a Bachelor and a Master of Arts in Anthropology. She completed an MBA in real estate finance from the University of Connecticut, Storrs in 1986. Patricia is a Local Voice on the Storrs-Mansfield Patch. She lives in Storrs and has been following the water issue for many years.
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