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Greening UM

The University of Montana


UM utilizes a unique and precious resource to provide cooling to its buildings. The University sits over the Missoula aquifer, which flows at a rate of 3-4 ft per day-a much more rapid pace than most aquifers that typically travel at rates of feet per year. The Missoula aquifer is continuously recharged by the Clark Fork River, and the University is fortunate enough to be at the incoming side of the aquifer where the water temperature is a consistent 48-50 degrees. UM uses this water in a very simple manner to create a cooling system, or air conditioning.

The water is pumped up from dedicated wells (supply wells) into a heat exchanger, where it exchanges its "cool" temperature with water that serves the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment in the building. The well water is then allowed to drain back into the ground via another well, called an "injection well". The well water picks up a maximum of 10 degrees F as it passes through a building during peak cooling times (summer months). UM has many measures in place to ensure that contamination of the well water does not happen, including regular testing of the injection water for verification.

Fifteen buildings on campus are centrally cooled with this type of system, and only 1 traditional chiller plant remains. Virtually all new buildings and cooling projects utilize ground water cooling. The energy savings using ground water cooling are substantial. It is estimated that these systems use 15% the amount of energy a traditional chiller plant would use. Over the past 10-15 years, while campus has continued to grow in size (with new buildings, and also in overall energy consumption) the "peak demand" of electricity on campus has stayed almost the same.

Greening UM

The Office of Sustainability
UM Facilities Services PP 110
32 Campus Dr MS 9288
Missoula MT, 59812