Sprawl follows the pipes, planners have observed. So in choosing a shorter pipeline for bringing water to campus, the University of Connecticut will limit low-density development in eastern Connecticut and save money to boot.
School officials have chosen the Connecticut Water Co.'s $21 million proposal to bring 2 million gallons of water a day over a five-mile pipeline to the Storrs campus to solve future water needs for the school and the town of Mansfield. The university's trustees are expected to vote on the choice today. We see no reason not to approve it.
By so doing, they eliminate a controversial $51 million plan by the Metropolitan District Commission to build a 20-mile pipeline from East Hartford to Storrs that would have drawn water from its Farmington River watershed reservoirs. Opponents attacked the plan as a danger to the long-term health of the watershed. MDC officials disagreed, saying they had more than enough surplus reservoir capacity for the job. A $44 million plan from Windham Water Works also was rejected.
Connecticut Water officials said the company would bear the cost of building the pipeline and other infrastructure. Pending final state approval, the water could be flowing in 18 months.
That will solve UConn's immediate needs, but still leaves two issues unresolved.
Since 2005, when it infamously pumped part of the nearby Fenton River dry, UConn has made significant strides toward water conservation. If it still has to import 2 million gallons of water a day, officials need to ask how much more development should take place at the Storrs campus. For example, one of the developments driving the increased demand for water is a technology park. Could some parts of this be built in, say, East Hartford, which is home to tech companies and is served by the MDC?
Also, UConn's efforts to solve its water issues have brought to light the fact that there is no statewide water-use plan. Before the university even considers shipping water halfway across the state, wouldn't it make sense to know how much water the state has, where it is, what the demand is, etc.?
Connecticut has been lucky with water. More than half of the land area in the Lower 48 states endured drought conditions in 2012. In the era of climate change, it could happen here. It would be wise to get a handle on this.