INFORMATIONAL MESSAGE FROM ALERT CAROLINA: Urgent appeal to limit water usage

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Campus water supplier Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) has sent an urgent appeal to the local community asking customers, including all UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty and staff, to limit water use to essential purposes only until at least Sunday morning (Feb. 5). The water remains safe to drink. Updates will be posted at

The following is OWASA’s message:

Due to an incident at its water treatment plant, OWASA is receiving drinking water from the City of Durham, leading to lower-than-normal water storage levels. OWASA is advising that water be used for essential purposes only until water levels are restored.

OWASA asked customers Friday morning to limit water use to essential purposes because water supplies in its storage tanks have fallen to reduced levels.

OWASA expects to continue to receive water from the City of Durham for a few days due to an incident at its Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant as reported Thursday (more information is below).

However, water flow through connections between the Durham and OWASA systems has not been adequate to fill OWASA’s tanks to normal levels. Customers are therefore asked to use water only for essential purposes.

OWASA is working to restore the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant to normal operation as soon as it is safe to do so. OWASA expressed deep appreciation to its customers for conserving and to the City of Durham for its invaluable help with water supply.

Best ways to conserve water

  • Flush toilets only when necessary.
  • Take short showers (less than 5 minutes); shower instead of taking a bath, which uses more water.
  • Turn off water when not in use for brushing teeth, etc.
  • Wash only full loads of clothes and dishes.
  • Use paper plates and plastic utensils to reduce dishwashing.
  • Check for and fix any leaks in toilets, faucets, hoses, pipes, etc.
  • Defer washing vehicles with drinking water. (Some car washes use well water.)

For more information on how to conserve water or for updates on this situation, please visit, click on the Conservation and Education and then click on water conservation tips.

Background information

Due to an accidental overfeed of fluoride within the water treatment process, OWASA began receiving drinking water from the City of Durham late Thursday afternoon.

The fluoride overfeed was contained at the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant. No water with higher than normal fluoride reached the water pipe system, so the water is safe to drink

Some customers may notice discoloration in their water because changes in water flows can stir up sediment in water lines. To clear the water, customers should run cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. If this does not clear the water, OWASA suggests for aesthetic reasons not using the discolored water and that customers contact OWASA at 919-968-4421 (24 hour number).

About Informational Messages: The University sends an Informational Message to inform the campus community about a situation that is not an emergency but is expected to be of significant interest to the campus. An Informational Message is one of three tiers of communication under the University’s revised emergency communications plan. Emergency Warning refers to a siren activation for a significant emergency.  And a Timely Warning is issued if there is a continuing danger AND notification will not compromise law enforcement.