UConn water should remain up to our own standards
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 19:01
UConn prides itself on being sustainable and environmentally conscious. Over the past few years, the school has amped up its green initiative to great results. All of the most recent work done on campus has been ecologically minded, and we’ve been ranked one of the most environmentally friendly schools in the country. It’s great that UConn is thinking about the way it grows, but one new project is in sharp contrast to this ethos.
UConn has a water shortage, and it’s only going to get worse as the university and community around it expand. To meet the increasing demand, school officials are considering building a pipeline to Storrs. UConn is determined to find a source to provide an additional two million gallons of water per day to the school. The increase will be necessary for several expansion projects, including construction, development of the Technology Park, and development in Mansfield. The pipeline plans were not the only ones on the table, but at this point most of the other options have been ruled out and there are three scenarios being considered: the Windham Water Works, the most localized plan using Mansfield resources, the Connecticut Water Co., which would access water in Vernon and the Metropolitan District Commission, which would be piping water all the way from the Farmington River in East Hartford. A public hearing on the issue was held Tuesday night at the UConn Health Center and many residents of the potentially affected towns, as well as state officials, voiced their opposition the plans. But as of right now it looks like the pipeline will go through, and the MDC option seems to be the front-runner.
UConn and MDC officials have stated that the 20-mile, $50 million pipeline is the cheapest and most practical way to get more water to Storrs. The company has also stated that it would help lower costs for residents along the way without harming the river. A pipeline seems like the simplest way to meet our water needs, but it’s an irresponsible and shortsighted decision, no matter which of the three plans is enacted. Two of the proposals would involve moving water from one watershed to another, meaning water piped from one area would not drain back into it. This is called an inter-basin transfer, and it’s something Connecticut has avoided in the past for good reason. It doesn’t make any sense and it sets up the possibility of catastrophic harm to the area being drained of water. All of the companies insist that they have plenty of water to meet UConn’s needs, but the school has over-pumped its sources before (part of the Fenton River was dried up in 2005) and it’s pretty much guaranteed that we would build to our limit.
The primary opposition to a pipeline is the illogical inter-basin transfer, but it would also encourage sprawl and development in the rural areas the pipeline will run through, further taxing its sources. A large, intricate system will be harder to fix should something go wrong, and the cost of pumping two million gallons of water a day uphill to Storrs will be enormous.
All three of these proposals are complicated, technical and multi-faceted. There’s a lot to be said for and against each of the proposals, but the crux of the argument goes beyond those technicalities. By building the pipeline to accommodate decisions that have already been made, the university sends a clear message that development comes before sustainability. UConn wants to build more than this area can support, and we know that’s not a safe or a smart thing to attempt. You cannot dictate what your resources are, and UConn has made a commitment to use its resources responsibly. With big plans comes the necessity of finding your limits first, not simply trying to provide for whatever has been drawn up. Rather than dealing with the issues that poorly planned expansions will cause in a few decades, prevent them now by establishing the precedent that the University will build and grow within its means.
Over the past few years, UConn has done a great job of that. We already have a water reclamation facility opening this year that can process a million gallons of water a day. Solutions like that are what we need. This is a chance for the university to be innovative. For a forward-thinking, ecologically aware school such as UConn, the pipeline should be a last resort.
The projects that are spotlighting the need for water are all good things. I’m all for making UConn a better school and Mansfield a better place, but the university has set a standard for environmental consciousness that this proposal does not meet. UConn is capable of finding a better solution to meet its goals.