Emory WaterHub celebrates grand opening

By Beverly Clark | Emory Report | April 14, 2015

Emory University is dedicating an innovative ecological on-site water re-use system that will provide nearly 90 percent of the campus utility water needs and 40 percent of the campus' overall water demand — leaving more water for one of the smallest watersheds for a metro-area of its size in the country.

The first and only WaterHub in the country, the attractive and odorless eco-engineered facility uses plants and colonies of "hungry" microorganisms to recycle up to 400,000 gallons-per-day.

Emory will host a public ribbon-cutting and official opening at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 17, followed by public tours of the facility from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.

"Emory is a leader in sustainability," says Matthew Early, Emory's vice president for Campus Services. "With this facility, we're taking a major step forward in becoming one of the first in the nation with this technology for cleaning our own wastewater, which will make it possible for Emory to save tens of millions of gallons of potable water every year."

Wastewater cleaned by the WaterHub is used as process make-up water in Emory's steam and chiller plants and for future toilet flushing in select residence halls. The system will reduce Emory's draw of water from Atlanta's municipal water supply by up to 146 million gallons of water annually.

The WaterHub includes a 50,000 gallon emergency water reserve which will allow Emory's heating and cooling systems to function for an average of seven hours, depending on seasonal operating demands, in the event of any disruption in water availability.

The WaterHub was made possible by an innovative water purchase agreement between Emory University; Sustainable Water, provider of the water reclamation technology; and Reeves Young, an Atlanta-based commercial contractor. The WaterHub creates lower cost water at a long-term stable rate and is expected to save millions of dollars in water utility costs to Emory over a 20-year period. 

In addition to recycling millions of gallons of water a year, the WaterHub includes a Reciprocating Wetland demonstration unit which was purposefully created at Emory as a research opportunity for The Center for Global Safe Water at Rollins School of Public Health. Data from the WaterHub will be used to help determine if similar facilities can be effectively utilized in developing countries.

The facility also is being used by faculty and students from Emory College of Arts and Sciences and other units of the university for hands-on research and learning.