University of New Hampshire’s Water Treatment Plant from Design-Build to Operate and Educate

University of New Hampshire’s Water Treatment Plant from Design-Build to Operate and Educate

NOVEMBER 05, 2020

When the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was ready to replace its small, antiquated water treatment facility, they partnered with Woodard & Curran under a design-build contract to do so. After several years of careful planning, design, and construction, the university and town of Durham, New Hampshire is now served by an efficient 26,000-square-foot water treatment plant (WTP) designed to treat and deliver up to 2 million gallons of high-quality drinking water per day.

Stakeholder Engagement from Day One

Immediately after being awarded the work, our project team began the design process with significant stakeholder engagement. Input was sought from both UNH and Durham officials every step of the way. The campus planning department reviewed iterations of conceptual design. Waterline Industries, our design-build construction partner on the project, weighed in early on constructability. The university’s existing WTP operations staff and our own, in-house operations specialists offered invaluable insight for functionality and long-term ease of maintenance. 

This collaborative approach helped the project team develop a unique and flexible treatment process for the three different raw water supply resources. Water entering the facility from Lamprey River, Oyster River, Spruce Hole Well, or any combination of the three, as well as the recycled water from plant processes, can prove challenging for operators to treat. However, the new WTP includes state-of-the-art equipment that provides operators the ability to proactively optimize blended flow quality and better anticipate treatment needs.

Our regulatory experts and engineers also considered UNH’s complex water withdrawal permit that allows the Lamprey River to recharge the groundwater at Spruce Hole Well during periods of high flow. This water is stored within the aquifer and is readily available as a groundwater supply when river flows are low. By incorporating this supply and recharge scheme into the new WTP’s overall control and reporting methodology ensures regulatory requirements are satisfied, available resources are maximized, and environmental impacts are minimized. 

As construction on the new WTP neared completion, UNH staff turnover prompted the client to engage a contract operator. Our operations team responded to the bid and received the contract, turning the project into a design-build-operate delivery. By including the existing operators in the design process and hiring them as Woodard & Curran employees under the operations contract, the transition from the old facility to the new facility in March 2020 came easily. 

Fulfilling a Unique Request

The university’s robust engineering program used the old facility as an educational tool, which was taken into consideration in designing the new WTP. The large facility has an open concept, with many of the processes visible. Engineering faculty were excited to bring students to tour the new, state-of-the-art facility and engage them in some hands-on learning in the student laboratory and conference room. 

As the WTP came into service, COVID-19 cases had reached New Hampshire. To protect the operations staff and critical infrastructure serving the campus and town, the university decided to halt group tours. However, UNH still wanted to leverage the significant educational value of the on-campus WTP for the students. 

Continuing in the collaborative nature of the project, our engineers partnered with our in-house marketing team to develop a creative solution. Together we produced a 13-minute narrated educational video featuring a recent UNH alumnus, providing a walk-through tour of the entire process from the three sources of supply to the treatment process, laboratory, control room, and residuals management systems. The video, seen below, was made available to the university’s professors and teaching staff to use as part of their curriculum during the 2020 fall semester.


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"All quality engineering firms can provide design services. Woodard & Curran has a business model based upon relationships which allows me as a client a single point of contact. The result an efficient and effective delivery of service that is unparalleled."

Scott Charpentier, DPW Director, Town of Northborough, MA