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Campus Life

Pacific works to reduce water use during drought

Aug 26, 2014

University of the Pacific has taken many measures in the past few years to reduce water usage on its 175-acre campus in Stockton. We have reduced the amount of water we use for landscape irrigation and as a result our lawns are not as green as they would be in a wet year.

We also are being more efficient with the water we do use. Pacific's Physical Plant invested $100,000 in a central computerized irrigation control system in 2006. The system allows for the University to turn off all 64 irrigation controls at the same time. For example, we are able to turn off all irrigation with a few short commands from a computer or tablet when a storm is forecast. That also allows us the opportunity to upgrade and fine tune the various irrigation systems and closely monitor our water use.

Pacific also uses an evapotranspiration-based computer program to water the Alan and Olive Gardemeyer Field on the north portion of the campus. (Evapotranspiration is the loss of water from the soil by evaporation and by transpiration from the plants growing in the soil.) This ET-based system takes information from our weather station, calculates the evapotranspiration rate and adjusts the system to replenish lost water so that the grass gets only the water it needs and no more. The University plans in time to expand the ET-based system throughout the campus.

We avoid watering during the day when evaporation rates are highest. Exceptions occur when we need to hydrate grass following outdoor events on campus, during the first few weeks after we have reseeded an athletic field so that the new plantings can take root, when we check for breaks and leaks in the irrigation system, and when grounds keepers must use spot watering in cases where a sprinkler has failed to work properly.

Pacific uses drought-resistant plants throughout campus. That is especially true around some of our newer buildings, such as the John T. Chambers Technology Center, Biological Sciences Center, Alex and Jeri Vereschagin Alumni House, and Don and Karen DeRosa University Center. Drought-resistant plants now grow where lawn might have been planted in the past. In some cases, rain runoff from those buildings is captured by the landscaping to reduce even more the need for irrigation.

A prime example of lawn being converted to drought-resistant plants is on the north portion of the Quad in front of Callison Lodge. Where once was lawn, now low-water native flowers, grasses and other plants thrive. The plantings, funded by former Regent Jeannette Powell, are the species found in conservationist John Muir's writings. The area is known as the Muir Botanical Area.

Eighty percent of what is used for irrigation is non-potable water from the Calaveras River that flows through campus. This water is not drinkable. The other 20 percent comes from California Water Service Co., or CalWater, which also provides tap water for the campus.

Future plans to reduce water usage include converting even more systems to drip irrigation and possibly using a system that emails or texts Physical Plant personnel when a pump comes on so that it can be reset, even in the middle of the night.

For tips on how to reduce water consumption, visit the Save Our Water website: http://saveourh2o.org/.

 

 

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