Five Minutes With Audio & Video Home


5 minutes with Emily Barrett

Emily Barrett, Sustainability Manager, Town of Cary, Cary North Carolina discusses her town's water conservation initiatives.

Emily Barrett

Emily Barrett
Sustainability Manager,
Town of Cary, Cary North Carolina

In the overall list of energy/water conservation priorities where does optimizing water efficiency rank?

The Town of Cary has a strong culture of conservation. We operate on 11 key organizational values. Around 1995, careful stewardship of our finite natural resources became one of those key values. Our water–conservation initiatives were some of our first conservation–oriented programs. Evidence of this is both seen by the typical citizen and behind the scenes.

The initiatives include:
* Waterless urinals in several locations.
* It is not only what we do but what we don't do. No fescue grass is planted. Only warm season grass is planted.
* No irrigation is used, except to establish plantings, in our volunteer garden, and on ball fields to maintain a highly managed, professional turf system for function and safety. When possible, we do use onsite or reclaimed water. We are also about to bid a project to bring piped, reclaimed water to one of our professional athletic facilities.
* We operate on the "right plant, right place" principal when we select our plants, which is closing in on 100 percent perennials to save money and resources
* Our utility staff found a way to save significant amounts of water by moving to unidirectional flushing

What methods do you use to measure water use?

The town meters the water use of all buildings. We are about to have our automated meter-reading infrastructure, which we call Aquastar, fully installed. Soon, we will have daily water use values associated with all meters.

What role does your maintenance and engineering staff play in the development and implementation of water-conservation initiatives?

Our culture is very much about including the right people in discussions, and therefore, our operations staff is involved in the front end on new building and retrofit conversations. Their understanding and participation is essential.

In the design and engineering of our new buildings we are always looking for opportunities. Fire station number eight, for example, is currently under construction and is being piped for using reclaimed water in its toilets. This facility is also using WaterSense fixtures and planted with warm-season grass with no irrigation.

Have you been able to quantify the savings the water-conservation initiatives have generated, if so, what numbers could you provide?

No. Our current plan is to use the same web-based, utility-tracking system that we use for energy metric tracking for our water tracking. It is called FacilityDude Utility Trac.

Which past conservation initiatives worked best, and why?

As a Southeastern water provider, we know that irrigation drives a lot of our capacity. We also take a lot of pride in the beauty of our town and really strive to have a lush, green, and neatly maintained landscape. We do this without irrigation. We feel that doing this is leading by example.

It is one of the best ways we can show that you can have a lovely looking landscape while still being aware that water resources are not infinite, especially during drought, and that water is a huge cost for municipalities, and wasting is not part of our culture.

We recently did a residential customer survey and among those who conserve water, the number one reason they did so was that it is the right thing to do. We want our town operations to reflect citizen values. We operate and innovate in order to demonstrate that we are doing the right thing on water conservation.

What future conservation initiatives do you have planned?

Using our new metering system to track and manage water use, similar to what our external customers will be able to do with Aquastar.

posted:  7/1/2012