This week on “Wonderful Water,” join WCHL’s Aaron Keck for a conversation with Mary Tiger, the sustainability manager for OWASA. You can listen to the full interview below, and check back next month for another conversation about the community’s water system!
OWASA is a public service, non-profit entity that, according to Tiger, is “responsible for delivering the fine folks of Chapel Hill and Carrboro with high quality water, wastewater and reclaimed water services every day.” All rates and fees paid to OWASA are directly re-invested into water and wastewater systems, keeping clean water flowing into homes and wastewater flowing out.
Across over 400 miles of drinking water pipe and another 400 miles of wastewater pipe on top of that, OWASA keeps water flowing through the Carrboro and Chapel Hill community. Currently, OWASA is working on a long-term plan to update its long-range water supply plan to anticipate local water needs over the next five decades.
“We’re about 130 strong,” said Tiger. “We, our staff, is out on the lake making sure that our drinking water reservoirs are well cared for and protected. They’re in your neighborhoods, making sure that hundreds of miles of underground pipes are delivering clean drinking water and taking away the wastewater from your home. And they’re in the office, they’re taking your calls, and they’re designing a water system that’s going to last this community for decades to come.”
According to Tiger, part of her job as OWASA’s sustainability manager – and one of OWASA’s larger goals – is to maintain the balance between environmental, social and financial impact of water use in the community. One of OWASA’s newest initiatives, Agua Vista, is designed to do just that.
Agua Vista is a service made possible by recent upgrades to all water meters in the community to radio read transmitters, according to Tiger. These new meters are able to relay hourly water use back to OWASA, creating a detailed water use profile that isn’t just useful for knowing how many gallons your home uses on laundry day, but also the impact installing a low-flow toilet had on your water bill.
“Over the last year as that data has been coming in, we’ve been analyzing it and flagging water use that looks like water leaks,” said Tiger. “We’ve been proactively notifying customers [about leaks]. But the real power of the data comes in giving that back to the homeowner, to the business owner, to the building manager so that they can look at that data and make decisions about what they’re doing to conserve water.”
Agua Vista’s web portal allows OWASA customers to access their data and directly view their water use. The system is currently being set up to automatically notify OWASA customers of potential leaks based on data analysis – a helpful feature, since the EPA estimates that roughly 12 percent of national water use goes to leaks.
“[People ask] ‘Why should I conserve water, it’s falling from the sky?’ … and in fact, it’s the same water on the planet that was here millions of years ago,” said Tiger. “But it really is good for the planet to save water because while water seems unlimited on the earth, clean water is not, and it takes a lot of input and energy to clean and deliver that drinking water under hundreds of miles of pipe. So when you save water, you save energy, you also save money.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents use roughly 7 million gallons of water a day, and “Wonderful Water” is a monthly conversation sponsored by the Orange Water and Sewer Authority highlighting its work to keep our community growing and water flowing.