According to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 95 percent of the State of California is currently experiencing severe to exceptional drought, and future prospects for relief look grim. It is no longer optional to cut back on water use; for the first time in state history, the governor has directed mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent.
In response to Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order, the City of Claremont has passed a resolution limiting watering to two days a week for 15 minutes at a time, which is a more than a 50 percent reduction of the College’s current watering schedule. The resolution further limits watering during colder months. To ensure Scripps College’s compliance with the water usage reduction mandate, the Board of Trustees approved funding to implement landscaping projects, showerhead replacements, and a new pool filtration system.
While these actions will result in some changes to the appearance of Scripps’ grounds, the College is committed to preserving the natural beauty of the campus. Work has begun in many areas, including Revelle House, Jaqua Quadrangle, East-West Allée, Sallie Tiernan Field House pool area, south of the Rose Garden, and south of the Routt Apartments. In addition to replacing grass with hardscape and drought-tolerant plants, the College is planting groundcovers that will keep the campus green with less water. Some of these include:
- tall and fine fescues, standard grasses that stay green year-round and do well in shade
- Bermuda Princess 77, a grass that stays green longer than other Bermudas, but is dormant in cold months, tolerates high foot traffic, stays tight to the ground, and does well in full sun
- Lippia Kurapia, a groundcover with inconspicuous spring flowers that stays green year-round, does well in sun/part shade, and accommodates moderate foot traffic
For the past two decades, Scripps College has adopted a broad range of sustainability initiatives as part of its charge to protect and preserve the environment. Scripps’ commitment to water conservation and sustainability includes implementation of the following measures:
- Removed more than 80,000 square feet of lawns and replaced them with drought-tolerant plants
- Replaced large, visible lawns in the center of campus with drought-tolerant grass, which will reduce water usage by 30 percent
- Upgraded the central irrigation system to reduce water waste caused by leaks and/or overwatering
- Intentionally planted eucalyptus, olive, oak, and sycamore trees, which require little water to maintain
- Limited the use of fountains during the drought to three of the 21 total on campus
- Hosted a free, public conference on water scarcity in 2013 to raise awareness of the statewide drought
The Claremont Colleges have responded appropriately to the drought as well, with each campus adapting to the current situation by removing turf, switching to drip systems, and replacing lawns with drought-tolerant or California native plants.