Imagine 100 average-sized swimming pools strewn across the campus landscape. The estimated 2 million gallons of water needed to fill those pools is what Cal Poly Pomona will save annually by eliminating eight parcels of decorative lawns.
Out of that overall savings in water, 550,000 gallons of valuable domestic drinking water would be conserved annually.
Landscape Services achieved the water savings by replacing non-functional lawns totaling 64,000 square feet, which is larger than a football field. Those lawns stretch from Parking Lot B in the south of campus to a nearly 44,000-square-foot plot along University Drive near Camphor Lane.
The lawn reduction project wrapped up as students returned for the fall semester and serves as a reminder of Cal Poly Pomona’s long-running practice of sustainability and social responsibility. Nearly 97 percent of all landscape irrigation utilizes recycled water, a significant feat during California’s unforgiving drought.
“The whole idea is to really save water and show the campus we are taking this drought very seriously,” said John Hiatt, gardener specialist. “We picked some areas where having a lawn really didn’t make sense.”
At the end of June, the team had identified 30 areas of non-functional lawns around campus and narrowed the list to eight locations that could be transformed over the summer. The criteria for lawn replacement hinged on two main factors: Whether the turf was decorative and if it was irrigated with potable water.
“If it was a potable water use, that would take precedent because that’s drinking water being used for irrigation,” said Brian Lake, manager of Landscape Services. “And it made sense if we already had trees and plants with mulch rings around them to make the whole strip mulch. Trees would prefer to be in mulch than grass anyways.”
To achieve its goal, Landscape Services had to be resourceful. The department did not receive supplemental funding for lawn replacement and had to work on the project in between normal summer shifts. More water could be saved if the department receives funding for additional lawn removals.
Assisting with the university’s mission of sustainability, West Coast Arborists, a contractor for Cal Poly Pomona to trim large trees, generously donated wood chips to the department for mulching.
“Replacing grass with drought tolerant ornamentals would be a lot more costly.” said Sal Guzman, lead irrigation specialist. “By mulching, we leave that option open if the drought and budget permits. Mulch is very adaptable to landscape design.”
At every lawn replaced with mulch, a sign details the amount of water the university saves.
“The signs are specific to each lawn,” Hiatt said. “Grass is different and not simple, but with mulch we can put our best effort forward in water conservation within the amount of time and labor we have.”