IDS investigation finds McKinney Fountain overusing water


An Indiana Daily Student investigation first discovered the Frank E. McKinney, Jr. Fountain outside the Simon Music Library has been overusing water. A Utility Services investigation traced the cause to a faulty connection between two electric components. IDS file photo

An Indiana Daily Student analysis found the Frank E. McKinney Jr. Fountain outside Simon Music Library used an unusually large amount of water between July 2017 and June 2018.Questions from the IDS about this finding triggered an investigation by IU Utility Services which found a faulty connection caused the fountain to waste an unknown amount of water.

Data obtained through a public records request showed McKinney Fountain used more than 38 million gallons of water between July 2017 and June 2018. IU Utility Services later amended the number to a little more than 12 million gallons of water — still higher than any other consumer in the dataset, which included only academic buildings.

The second-highest consumer, the Chemistry Building, used 8,537,820 gallons of water in the same period. Read our complete analysis of all utility data here.

Mark Menefee, assistant director for IU Utility Services, said campus fountains are filled with water when they start running every season and then reuse the same water, only getting additional water to make up for any lost due to evaporation or wind.

However, readings from a water meter showed the McKinney Fountain kept renewing itself with an almost equal amount of water every month.

IU utilities data analyst Andrea Moore said on April 17 the high water usage reading could have been caused by faulty meter readings, underground leaks, faulty control valves or other equipment issues.

Menefee said Wednesday the issue was in fact a faulty connection between the water level sensor and the control valve. It is believed that the valve didn’t properly close and the reservoir underneath the fountain was constantly being filled. The excess water was drained into the sewer system via an overflow pipe.

It’s unknown how much extra water was wasted by this faulty connection because Utility Services doesn’t know how much water the fountain should be using when it functions properly.

The fountain’s water meter has been replaced and Utility Services is continuing to monitor the readings. In addition, an annual maintenance team resurfaced the fountain’s concrete, in case water was lost through cracks.

As part of the investigation, Menefee said Utility Services is considering controlling the McKinney Fountain’s valves manually. Menefee said IU Utility Services is also now looking into Showalter Fountain to confirm its metering is adequate.

Part of the reason the high usage wasn’t investigated earlier is because IU’s utility data management software flags only changes between months. Because the fountain’s use was consistent between operating months, it wasn’t flagged as an anomaly. As IU Utility Services transitions to a new utility data management software, Moore said she hopes they will be able to identify anomalies quicker.

“The use of utility metering on campus helps Utility Services find anomalies in the data that should be investigated and problems remedied when necessary,” Menefee said in an email.

Men paint the McKinney Fountain on April 5 outside the Simon Music Library on Jordan Ave. Colin Kulpa

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