By Luke Frantz and Joseph McVey, Oct. 18, 2022
Due to California’s severe drought over summer, Cal Poly Pomona Landscape Services started removing non-functional lawns to help support the university’s mission of sustainability by reducing water use.
This project will save a total of 2,838,005 gallons of water a year with 549,026 gallons of that being potable water.
“Water conservation during a time of drought in places like California is crucial to helping the environment,” said Stephen Osborn, professor in the geological sciences department.
According to Osborn, this current drought is very severe and a relatively warm and dry winter it will only worsen problems with water resources in the future.
“One wet winter isn’t enough to pull us out of it,” said Osborn. “It’ll take a couple years, most likely, of wet winters to really pull us out.”
According to Brian Lake, manager of landscape services, the team removed 78,584 square feet of lawn from campus during summer break in order to cut back on the school’s water usage. That adds up to nearly one and a half football fields worth of grass.
“As we enter this difficult time of the drought, we knew we had some lawns out there that were aesthetically pleasing, but not used for any purpose,” said Lake. “There were other lawns around campus that we had identified that didn’t necessarily have to be a lawn anymore. If we could eliminate them and help save water, we were willing to do that.”
The removed lawns can be found across campus with a sign saying how much water that patch saved after being removed. The grass has been replaced with brown mulch saving nearly 2.8 million gallons of wastewater.
The team had to be resourceful, as Landscape Services did not receive any additional funding for the lawn removal.
“We’re just doing it with our own maintenance budget,” said Lake. “We don’t have the money to buy California native plants to put back in there, but that allows for a future plan to possibly do something different.”
According to Lake, he put together a team during the summer that were all dedicated to the project and to water conservation. Gardener specialist John Hiatt was one of the team members who dedicated his summer to removing lawns every weekend.
“We take the use of water very seriously,” said Hiatt. “This was an opportunity for us to really show the rest of the campus that we are aware, and we want to help as much as possible.”
With the now empty lawns, Hiatt shared what could be a possibility for the plots of land moving forward. Working on using plants appropriate for the climate at CPP is what landscaping will look into in the future. Water conservation remains the top priority for landscaping services.
According to Osborn, there are small changes everyone can make in order to help preserve water in a time like this — such as turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth or not watering the lawn at the end of the day.
“It’s not only about water conservation, but also about protecting the water we do have,” said Osborn.
Feature image by Joseph McVey
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