Last week, the iris-bearing flowerbeds surrounding the Gann Quadrangle lawn outside of the Kravis Center were removed and replaced with a bed of stones and succulents. This change was one of a number of projects that CMC’s facilities staff are working on to reduce the amount of water required by CMC’s infrastructure. Some of these projects are part of longterm environmental renovations to CMC’s campus, but the urgency of the goals has increased in the past year as a result of California’s severe ongoing drought. To learn more about CMC’s efforts to reduce water usage, the Forum reached out to Brian Worley, CMC’s Director of Facilities and Campus Services.
The Forum: When did CMC decide to start implementing water-saving measures on campus? Have the other Claremont Colleges undertaken similar pursuits?
Brian Worley: We have been implementing water reduction measure in one form or another for quite some time, but took some significant steps starting five years ago. First, we installed food-waste decomposers in Collins Dining Hall. These significantly reduced use of water in the dish room and our landfill waste-stream. We also eliminated the use of trays in the dining hall, which reduced food waste and the water used to clean the trays. Over the next two years we implemented an irrigation control system tied to a weather station that reduced our water consumption by about 30%. Currently we are focusing on removal of turf in non-essential areas. The other colleges have engaged in similar projects.
Could you explain the recent landscaping changes outside of the Kravis Center? Exactly what changes were made and what will the projected impact be?
BW: At the Kravis Center we removed the four iris beds and planted two more drought-tolerant plants—with a goal of reduced water demand and costs of maintenance and replacement. In the next few weeks, you will notice the elimination of the turf in the parkway along 8th Street as well. We will be replacing it with a native, drought-tolerant grass.
Could you give an overview of the landscaping changes/projects that CMC is either currently implementing or has plans to implement to save water?
BW: The changes at Kravis are a start. We have identified non-essential turf areas throughout the campus and will be creating various projects to remove the turf and replace with either drought-tolerant plantings or mulch. One such project was the landscaping around the campus directory at the west end of Bauer North. The landscaping along Claremont Boulevard at the student Apartments is another example.
Something many students have pointed out in light of the drought is the sprinkler runoff water—in North Quad, for example, students have nicknamed it “The river of North Quad,” because of how much of the sprinkler water streams through the quad at night. Does CMC have plans to reduce sprinkler use on CMC’s lawns and allow the grass to dry out in order to save water? If that is not part of CMC’s water-saving efforts, why not?
BW: As for the river, we are asking for input when students notice particular areas being overwatered at night. We are focusing our efforts on eliminating the river(s).We would prefer re-landscaping to dry/dead grass areas. We do try to find the line between dry and stressed, and turn the irrigation off for long stretches during the winter months. Dead grass is not part of CMC’s current campus aesthetic.
What is the long-term plan with regards to these water-saving projects and what is the timeline in mind for them right now? If the drought becomes less extreme in future years, will CMC reverse these projects or keep them?
BW: The plan is to continue implementing projects that bring CMC closer to its goals for carbon neutrality. I would expect us to continue implementing projects as we do major campus improvement projects over the next five or six years. I would not expect much if any reversals in future years because the changes in our campus aesthetic reflect our commitment to carbon neutrality.
Any other comments?
BW: We are also changing out 124 shower heads to low-flow heads this year. Our landscaping projects are planned in such a way that they will easily be adapted to using reclaimed water, when that becomes available. The 5Cs have been reviewing the feasibility of a reclaimed water system/project. We will continue to focus on ways to reduce water use and educate the community on how they can help.