Drinking Water

In operation since the 1920’s, Cornell’s potable water system serves about 35,000 people on campus and the surrounding community with clean, safe drinking water...

President David Skorton using the water bottle-filling station on the third floor of Day Hall.
President David Skorton using the water bottle-filling station on the third floor of Day Hall.

Campus water conservation measures have reduced consumption by half since 1970

Campus water conservation measures have reduced consumption by half from a high of 3.0 mgd (million gallons per day) in the early 1970’s to the current average consumption of 1.5 mgd. This despite the fact that campus building square footage has almost doubled over the same time period. Strategies like requiring low-flow fixtures in our building standards, district cooling, and improved lab practices have all contributed to the savings. The system is fully metered, and water usage can be tracked in most campus buildings online.

The Cornell system is relatively energy-efficient. Water flows by gravity from the main intake structure in Fall Creek to the Water Filtration Plant (WFP) and through the plant where it is treated and filtered to remove sediment, and disinfected. The WFP, together with the other two local water purveyors, produce and distribute comprehensive annual reports on their water quality.

A network of more than 36 miles of underground pipes, pumps, pressure control valves, and holding tanks delivers the water to consumers on and around campus. Regular and careful maintenance, including annual hydrant flushing to cycle 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

Learn more about the Water Filtration Plant and Cornell’s tap water.