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Waste Not, Pay Not: Catawba College to Capture Water for Irrigation

September 12, 2006

Category: Athletics

by Eric Proctor, Catawba College News Service

After the roar of the crowd dies down at Catawba College's Frock Fields, you'll hear the sound of water gushing beneath your feet. This water, which is runoff from the geothermal system used throughout the campus to cool or heat buildings, has been piped directly into Grant's Creek. Meanwhile, the College has had to dip into its funds to pay for city water to irrigate the fields for football (two practice and one game), soccer fields (one practice and one game), softball, field hockey, and lacrosse.

"We irrigate 25 acres of playing surface," says Senior Vice President Tom Childress, who views irrigation as a necessity for player safety.

But, one thing bugged him about the whole irrigation process: "You hate to be spending money on city water when you literally have it flowing under your feet into Grant's Creek. We now are going to capture water that we've been just throwing away."

Enter Catawba College Trustee and longtime benefactor James F. "Jim" Hurley III. Hurley has graciously donated the money for two 20,000-gallon tanks that will capture and store the runoff from the geothermal system. Rather than being wasted, this water will in the very near future be used to irrigate the fields.

"It's basically a simple project and something we've been wanting to do for a while, and thanks to Mr. Hurley, we're allowed to do it," says Energy Manager and Assistant Director of Facilities Norman Hodges, who is coordinating the effort.

"It's a pretty neat opportunity for the College," Childress agrees.

Although the project costs approximately $25,000, it is expected to pay for itself within a short time frame.

"It'll be a real cost savings," Director of Facilities Henry Haywood speculates. "We're hoping we'll have payback in two and a half years."

"We're spending a ton of money for irrigation at Frock Fields," agrees Hodges. "We'll reduce the cost significantly on what we pay for city water for that area."

After the payback occurs, everything else is just money saved. More importantly, however, the project will also be saving the environment.

"It's good for us to be able to use the water again because it doesn't have the chemicals that city water has," says Haywood.

Hodges explains that the chemical content of city water has a tendency to neutralize the fertilizers used on the fields. The water in the new holding tanks will be all natural.

According to Hodges, the holding tanks are on order and preliminary site work for their installation is underway. Hodges is teaming with another facilities department colleague, Bill Kluttz, to begin construction, but will seek a contractor for what he deems "a partial in-house project and a contracted project."

After the estimated three months it will take for project completion, who will be able to look back with pride and say that they came up with the idea?   According to Hodges, that will not be so easy to pinpoint.

While hands could shoot up across the facilities department, it was really a collective effort. Hodges and Haywood realized the need for the tanks at the same time, and there was already talk among their colleagues about what a shame it was to waste the geothermal water by dumping into Grant's Creek.

"I'd like to give credit to the entire facilities department," smiles Hodges. "I don't think you can cite an individual, you have to cite the whole department. We don't have heroes. We have a unit that functions as one."

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