Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneSouthern Oregon College is holding again on watering grass on campus to preserve water.
College letting some lawns, fields go brown throughout drought
Going through an unprecedented drought, Southern Oregon College is rethinking its campus irrigation system that makes use of virtually a half-million gallons of water a day throughout the summer time.
The college is letting some lawns and sports activities fields go brown, whereas attempting to avoid wasting bushes and landscaping.
Day by day irrigation water use in the summertime is about 425,000 to 450,000 gallons. The campus has about 10,000 sprinkler heads, in accordance with SOU Director of Group and Media Relations Joe Mosley.
SOU attracts its irrigation water from the Expertise Irrigation District, which depends on reservoirs which can be at traditionally low ranges.
Native irrigation districts warn they might have to chop off water Aug. 1 — properly earlier than orchards, vineyards and hashish growers harvest their crops. TID is within the midst of a two-week water shutoff in a bid to avoid wasting water for later when temperatures skyrocket.
With a campus of just about 200 acres, SOU is a significant person of irrigation water for nonagricultural functions.
“We’ve checked out areas we may let go brown whereas we transition to a extra sustainable footprint sooner or later,” mentioned SOU Vice President of Finance and Administration Greg Perkinson.
No less than for now, the garden continues to be lush and inexperienced in some spots, like in entrance of iconic Churchill Corridor.
However the lawns are brown close to The Hawk eating constructing, close by residence halls and the Lithia Motors Pavilion sports activities heart. Proper subsequent to the crispy grass, landscaped beds with younger bushes and bushes are nonetheless thriving.
SOU plans to minimally water a sports activities follow area that might be used this summer time for soccer camps, Perkinson mentioned.
A area used for intramural sports activities gained’t be watered, he mentioned.
“The most important threat when the grass dies out is the weeds come up,” Perkinson mentioned.
The intramural sports activities area is already lined in prickly weeds which can be knee-high in spots.
Mike Oxendine labored for 11 years sustaining the campus grounds at SOU. He now works for the Plant Oregon nursery close to Expertise.
Oxendine mentioned he’s already seeing indicators of drought stress in some bushes at SOU, particularly these on the periphery of campus. Letting lawns go brown may endanger bushes with roots that unfold out in a large perimeter underground.
“Plenty of the massive bushes on campus should be saved alive. Timber have grown used to having water on the lawns for years and years. It’s going to be a really advanced challenge. It will likely be difficult,” Oxendine mentioned. “My precedence could be to maintain the bushes alive, particularly the heritage bushes and new bushes that don’t have deep roots but.”
Oxendine mentioned SOU has an antiquated irrigation system that could be very expensive to improve. Lots of the older fundamental traces run beneath sidewalks and roads or near massive bushes.
As SOU has been finishing up development initiatives, it’s been progressively upgrading the irrigation system, Oxendine mentioned.
Previous enhancements embrace upgrades to observe water move, automated leak detection and the set up of underground sensors to observe soil moisture and robotically alter water deliveries, in accordance with Oxendine.
Perkinson mentioned many parcels of land are nonetheless watered by an irrigation system with handbook controls, quite than a extra trendy automated system. Responding to leaks and repairing damaged sprinklers is one other main chore.
“Final 12 months, loads of the challenges for the landscaping crew was they had been chasing breaks. They had been going from break to interrupt to interrupt,” Perkinson mentioned.
The low estimate for modernizing the system is $150,000, however that determine may double, he mentioned.
In the long run, SOU is decreasing the quantity of its campus dedicated to lawns and progressively shifting to drought-tolerant landscaping, he mentioned.
Perkinson mentioned many SOU college students are involved about social justice, fairness and environmental points, together with water conservation.
“They’re those that see the sprinkler operating and operating and operating they usually’re like, ‘Wait a minute. You’re over-watering right here,’” he mentioned. “And so we have to be conscious of that and dial that again.”
Some mother and father, then again, need a inexperienced oasis for his or her youngsters in faculty.
Perkinson mentioned a mother or father just lately complained that the grass was inexperienced when she moved her child onto campus two years in the past, however now the grass is brown and appears horrible.
One other mother or father criticized SOU on social media in regards to the dried out circumstances on some elements of campus. However neighborhood members took her to activity.
“They had been saying, ‘Look. We’re in the course of a drought and naturally some grass goes to be brown.’ So she obtained loads of blowback — not from me — however from local people members on social media which can be saying, ‘Hey, sit back, man. We’re on this collectively,’” Perkinson mentioned.