Board endorses new water supply plan
Published: Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
The Board of Trustees endorsed a plan on Aug. 8 that will bring an additional 2.2 million gallons of water per day to the University of Connecticut and the town of Mansfield.
The board tapped a proposal from Connecticut Water Co. as the preferred among three alternatives. The plan includes the construction of a five-mile pipeline that would connect UConn and Mansfield’s water supply system with CWC’s system in Tolland, which draws from the Shenipsit Lake Reservoir.
The university’s Office of Environmental Policy examined proposals from three water utilities for the expansion: Connecticut Water Co., Windham Water Works, and the Metropolitan District Commission.
“We believe the CWC option offers the best fit for our needs, and it recognizes UConn’s commitment to act in the best long-term interest of the campus, its neighbors, and the region,” said UConn Associate Vice President Thomas Callahan in a statement released Aug. 8.
The board pointed to cost as a major advantage of the CWC option. CWC was the only company to offer to pay the cost of construction, which is estimated to be $20 to $21 million.
The state legislature previously allocated $8.5 million in bonds for utility expansion when it approved the technology park expansion and more was factored into the Next Generation UConn bond package.
However, because CWC will pay construction costs, the university would use some of that bond money for legal fees and the remainder would be directed back to the state bond commission, according to Jason Coite, an environmental compliance analyst at UConn.
The plan will now head to the state Office of Policy for approval. Windham Water Works will stay on the table as a backup option, but MDC’s plan - which received considerable pushback from Farmington residents during the public comment period - is no longer under consideration.
CWC is currently authorized by the state to withdrawal 15 million gallons per day (mgd) from the Shenipsit Reservoir, but currently draws roughly 4 mgd. However, in order to keep a margin of safety, only an additional 1 mgd would be provided to UConn and Mansfield initially.
But the need for an additional 2.2 mgd is a 50 year projection and David Benoit, the vice president and CFO of Connecticut Water Co., said CWC will be able to provide the full 2.2 million by the time it’s needed.
“We’re anticipating making improvements to our water treatment facility that will add about a 3 mgd capacity, which gives us more than a sufficient margin of safety in our own system to meet UConn’s, the town’s, and our existing customers’ needs,” Benoit said.
According to the board’s Record of Decision, the CWC expansion would also have the least environmental impact of the three options.
“The majority of pipeline installation will occur where roads are currently paved and therefore do not support significant biological communities, cultural resources, or visual resources,” the decision reads. “Construction methods and timing can occur in such a manner as to minimize temporary traffic impacts.”
The five-mile pipeline to Tolland is also shorter than the seven-mile pipeline that would be required to connect to Windham Water Works’ system. In addition, the shorter distance minimizes risk of contamination, according to Coite.
CWC’s rates are also expected to be the lowest of the three options. The company has offered to charge UConn a rate 40% lower than the typical institution rate, though the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority must approve it beforehand.
Mansfield residents will be charged the standard approved rate, which is roughly $593 per year for a customer using 15,000 gallons per quarter, according to a fact sheet released by CWC, However, the CWC rates are expected to be higher than rates currently paid by Mansfield residents.
Eric Thornburg, the president and CEO of Connecticut Water Co., said in an interview in June that the company is committed to getting the project done quickly and efficiently if it is given final approval.
“Our project is clearly the least cost, had the least environmental impact, and can be done in the shortest amount of time,” said Thornburg.
CWC also released a statement on Aug. 7 stating the company has “already assembled a team of key individuals at the company to work with the university and the town on the next steps.”
UConn is currently the sole provider of water to both the university and Mansfield and began considering water expansion options over five years ago. Increased enrollment projections and construction projects around the university - such as Storrs Downtown and Next Generation UConn expansions - have driven demand projections up.