By Aya Burton
This past week, Scripps’ students enjoyed the first rains of the season, light sprinkles that lasted no longer than a few minutes at a time. Despite the rarity of rainfall in Los Angeles County, Scripps’ campus looks lush and green year-round. In order to maintain its grassy, flowering landscapes, Scripps must, of course, rely heavily on irrigation systems. Over the past few years, however, a number of initiatives have been implemented in order to reduce Scripps’ water consumption.
In the summers of 2014 and 2015, Scripps replaced its lawns with drought-tolerant and California native plants. The Jaqua lawns now use 30% less water than the previous lawn, which was installed in a time of water surplus. The college also planted groundcovers that keep the campus green with less water, such as fescues, Bermuda Princess 77, and Lippia Kurapia. In earlier years, Eucalyptus, olive, oak, and sycamore trees, which require little water to maintain, were also planted. Additionally, a decomposed granite path now takes up the space between Dorsey and the Margaret Fowler Garden, and a central concrete path on the sides of the Firelane road between Kimberly Hall and the Fowler Garden creates a non-lawn corridor.
In the past 20 years, grass has also been removed from the area between GJW and Kimberly and behind the Revelle House. Additionally, ever since the Athletic field was installed, it has never been over-seeded during winter months when the Bermuda grass goes dormant. This saves water in contrast to the common practice of overseeding. The grass on the lawn at the diagonal entrance at 9th and Columbia has also been minimized .
More recently, the Toll hall project removed two areas of lawn from Oasis and Star Courts. Where there was once lawn, there is now the student garden, with planting beds and orchard trees. In the planting beds, a mulching practice is used to retain moisture in the ground versus absorption during the hot months of the year. All lawns are mowed on a biweekly basis, allowing for deeper root growth which reduces the need for more frequent watering.
Scripps’ irrigation systems have also been renovated to conserve water. More drip lines have been added as opposed to spray heads in planters. A recent analysis and test of the entire system also confirmed or modified watering zones, allowed for major irrigation valves, and the repair of main lines. New irrigation maps are currently in progress for groundskeepers’ use. All recent projects, such as the Toll hall landscape, are on a drip and low emitter system that irrigates low water use plants. Throughout the campus, sand-based flagstone and brick are used to allow for rainwater to percolate and recharge the groundwater.
Over the summer months, there were several changes in Scripps’ water use: most fountains were not in use, the Platt Boulevard islands’ planter spaces were reduced and replaced with low water use plants, and Scripps’ lead groundskeeper was trained and is now a certified water technician, which helps with water management in the field. The Scripps’ grounds team is scheduled to attend training classes this October on water efficient management, drip irrigation layout technologies, and continued education on low water use plants. As the evenings get cooler, water use will be reduced. By keeping in place older water conservation initiatives and implementing new ones, Scripps, recognized as having one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, can also work towards being more environmentally-conscious and sustainable.
Image Credit: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin