University announces aggressive Water Conservation Plan

In the midst of California’s three-year drought, Fresno State is unveiling its aggressive Water Conservation Plan aimed at reducing campus water usage by 20 percent — or 59.8 million gallons — in the next year.

Though Fresno State pumps and maintains its own water system, the university is committed to preserving natural resources, said Bob Boyd, Fresno State’s associate vice president for Facilities Management. The plan calls for a reduction of 7.5 million gallons of water usage per month during growing season from March to October.

The university identified three areas of major water use — irrigation of the main campus and university farm; domestic water for sinks, toilets and water coolers; and chilled water used for cooling buildings. In 2008, nearly 299 million gallons of water were pumped and treated. It was estimated that about two-thirds, or 191 million gallons, were used for irrigation.

In addition to its ongoing water technology research, the university has enacted a number of water-saving measures, including limiting irrigation to one inch per week during growing season, transitioning to low-flow sprinkler heads, expanding electronic monitoring of flow in irrigation pipes to determine areas of inefficiency and changing the fertilizer blend the help turf thrive with less water.

The Fresno State campus is home to several water-related organizations, including the California Water Institute, the International Center for Water Technology and the Center for Irrigation Technology.

“It’s important for us to serve as an example in the community on ways we can all conserve water,” Boyd said.

The university farm has reduced its water usage by more than 40 percent in the past five years. Orchards are watered with micro-sprinklers, rotating mini sprinklers that operate at low pressure, and vineyards and vegetable crops are watered using drip irrigation. This spring, 25 percent of the horse pastures between Barstow and Bullard avenues will be changed to micro-sprinklers.

Future building projects, such as the Jordan Research Center, are being dual plumbed to use non-potable water where possible. Grounds around new buildings will not include berms and will feature drought-tolerant plants as outlined by the Campus Master Plan.

While diversity of plant and tree species is important on a campus that is used as a teaching lab, the university is requiring new landscapes to be planted with native or low-water species and is replanting with such species in certain areas.

The university also partnered with Fresno-based Aqua Cents Water Management to trial its injections of organic hydrogels below turf in certain areas of campus that require a lot of water. The hydrogels are intended to improve absorption of water and nutrients, reducing the amount and frequency of water and fertilizers.

“It’s a matter of teaching our lawns to drink differently,” Boyd said. “We had a real problem keeping the mounds in the Peace Garden green on top. The only way in the past was to over-water the top. This new process has allowed us to reduce the applied water and still keep the mounds green.”

Fresno State is using Aqua Cents in the rolling mounds of turf throughout the Peace Garden and the outfield berm in Bulldog Diamond. Another round of installation is being completed on Maple Mall to prepare for the heavy foot traffic of the university’s Vintage Days spring festival, April 25-27.

For more information, contact Boyd at 559.278.2373 or robertb@csufresno.edu.

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Eddie Hughes

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Writer/Public Affairs Specialist, University Communications