Possibility to reduce water use

The University of Miami’s College of Engineering, led by Dr. James Englehardt, professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, is embarking on a new project that will reduce water and energy expenditure.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted $2 million towards the development of a self-sufficient, zero-waste water system to be constructed in UM dorms.

The Water Information Program cites that the average American uses 176 gallons of water per day. The transportation of this water and waste water to and from a centralized treatment plant is the reason for a significant portion of total U.S. electric power generation.

The long-term goal of the Englehardt’s project is to reduce energy. Once this new system is created, the middleman (centralized treatment plants) will be eliminated, reducing the expenditure of energy and water demands. Toxic organics will also be destroyed rather than releasing them to the environment.

“The project is intended to develop design concepts to allow buildings of the future to manage water and waste water at substantially lower cost,” Englehardt said. “While addressing problems of endocrine disruption in the environment.”

The project is set to be complete in 2014, and will service 20 students. Water from the system will be used for all activities, including bathing, washing, toilets and laundry, with the exception of drinking and cooking.

The program will be located on the southeast wing of Eaton Residential Hall on the second floor, and the 20 students will participate on a volunteer basis.

“If everything goes through with the plan it will be a great way to conserve water.  We lose millions of gallons of water from the Everglades every year, and this will be a great way to recycle the water we already have and use,” said Santiago Rodriguez, a student in the College of Engineering.

This project is another initiative from Green U, a program coordinated by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety that launched in 2005. The goal of Green U is to produce and use environmentally responsible products, and the practice of economically sound maintenance and operations procedures.

Previous initiatives include the Hybrid Vehicle Parking Rebate, which gives a 50% parking rebate up to $215 per year to full-time faculty, staff and students who drive hybrid vehicles.

Elbert Waters, director of the broward service center for south Florida water management district, works across south Florida to promote water conservation among many other things. He sees the new program as a step in the right direction.

“One gallon of water saved is very important. Any way of conserving water we look to favor,” Waters said.

Rebecca Zimmer may be contacted at rzimmer@themiamihurricane.com.