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Cornell University

Drinking Water: Distribution & Delivery

A network of underground pipes delivers water to consumers on and around campus. Regular maintenance, including annual hydrant flushing to cycle any stagnant water out of the system; a comprehensive backflow prevention program to keep water from re-entering the system from service connections; and weekly water quality testing performed by WFP staff at several points around the system all help to ensure that water quality meets the requirements for the many purposes it serves including:

  • Domestic (dorms, dining halls, bathrooms, etc.),
  • Processes (labs, other Utilities plants, building mechanical systems, etc.),
  • Irrigation (crops, livestock, athletic fields, etc.), and
  • Fire protection

Current daily average consumption is 1.5 to 1.7 MGD (million gallons per day). Despite the fact that campus building square footage has almost doubled, water conservation measures have led to a reduction in consumption from a high of 3.0 MDG in the early 1970’s. Strategies like requiring low-flow fixtures in our building standards, district cooling, and improved lab practices have all contributed to the savings.

To ensure that campus will reliably have an adequate supply of water despite the inevitable water main breaks and other emergencies, Cornell has emergency agreements with the City of Ithaca Water Treatment Plant and the Bolton Point Municipal Water System for backup water supplies through permanent connections. The Cornell system has been engineered to provide as much flexibility as possible, giving us multiple ways to feed water to a service connection in the event of a problem.  

Some interesting facts about the infrastructure:

  • Some of the pipes and hardware date back to the early 1900’s

  • Pipe diameter: 3/4”to 16”
  • Miles of water main: 36
  • Number of water valves: 1200
  • Number for fire hydrants: 295
  • Number of pressure zones: 3
  • Number of storage tanks: 2 with a total capacity 2.5 million gallons
  • Average number of water main breaks: 8 to 10 per year
Are you doing work on campus and need water? Please see the links below for guidance documents and forms: