Drought prompts horticulture dept. to cut down on water usage

 

The Environmental Horticulture and Floristry Department uses low volume drip systems in order to conserve water. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)
The Environmental Horticulture and Floristry Department uses low volume drip systems in order to conserve water. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)

By Steven Ho

STAFF WRITER

 

The buildings and grounds department decreased its water usage last year after receiving a letter from the public utilities commission.

“We have decreased our water usage in the landscape by 35 to 40 percent,” Landscape Supervisor Stephen Peterson said.

Peterson said vegetation that was watered once a week is now watered every other week for 10 minutes.

The college is working to upgrade its irrigation system from a high volume overhead water spray to a more efficient low volume drip system.

Peterson said City College’s sustainability plan calls for the removal of lawns that are not used by students, because it requires a great amount of water to maintain.

The department has already removed lawns from several areas at Ocean Campus.

Students in the horticulture department have planted California natives in areas that were once covered in grass around Cloud Circle.

Peterson said the use of drought-tolerant plants along with the low volume drip system resulted in a 90 percent reduction in water usage. He also said the overall goal is to change the landscape, so it won’t need as much water in the future.

Demonstration on the use of water breakers in the greenhouses at the Ocean Campus. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)
Demonstration on the use of water breakers in the greenhouses at the Ocean Campus. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)

Greenhouses in the horticulture department help create a humid environment, which decreases the frequency of watering. Water vapors trapped in the greenhouses can be absorbed through the leaves of the plants.

Nursery Specialist Erick Bautista said that “water loss is very minimal” for the plants in the greenhouses. Outdoor plants live in an uncontrolled environment that includes a great loss of moisture on very sunny and windy days, Bautista said.

Misting systems, wands with water breakers and low volume drip systems for irrigation help limit water usage to only what is necessary.

The department is looking to modify its greenhouses to collect water runoff from the potting benches, which would result in nearly zero water loss.

To decrease the need for watering while keeping the soil moist, students use mulch to cover the soil surrounding outdoor plants and in lathe houses.

Bautista said the program is teaching future gardeners and landscapers to be more conscious about plant selection and the amount of irrigation required.

 

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