The Grass Shouldn’t Be Greener on Campus
THE SANTA CLARA
April 30, 2015
Unless you spend your days living under a rock, you are likely well aware that California is currently wallowing in one of the worst droughts in recent memory. That is, of course, only if you live somewhere other than Santa Clara. With lush green lawns sprawled across our gorgeous university, the Mission Campus stands as an unexpected oasis in the middle of the scorching Silicon Valley.
Now, before you begin lighting torches and sharpening pitchforks, it is worth noting that Santa Clara does take numerous and highly commendable eco-friendly measures on campus. But significantly more can be done to conserve water and promote sustainability on campus.
Santa Clara is not a golf course. We don’t need vibrant lawns. Brown grass on campus won’t be pretty, but running out of water completely will be even less attractive. It’s time our “sustainable” university leads by example and shuts off its sprinklers.
Last week, the Associated Student Government and the Center for Sustainability spent Earth Day educating students on how to conserve water in their daily lives. As part of the “60 Seconds Less” campaign, fake shower stalls were set up to demonstrate the more conservative “navy showers,” during which water is used sparsely and turned on only to rinse. Yet all of the shower demonstrations in the world mean nothing when they take place in front of one of the healthiest looking lawns in the Bay Area.
Those gorgeous lawns, however, are not as wasteful as they seem. In 2003, Santa Clara took steps to limit its water usage on campus. Eager to save both money and the environment, the administration invested heavily in irrigating campus with recycled water.
One catchy poster from the Center for Sustainability reads, “They say, ‘Brown is the new Green.’ (Santa Clara) has been purple since 2003.” It is a bit unsettling to think about students tanning in wastewater, but the fact that more than 85 percent of the hundreds of millions of gallons of water used to irrigate campus is reclaimed wastewater merits at least some applause.
This week, in an attempt to symbolically bring more attention to the adverse effects of California’s four-year drought, the Benson Fountain will be drained and turned off.
You know what would be more symbolic than turning off just one of the several fountains on campus? Turning off the sprinklers that water our lawns with over 570 million gallons of recycled water. Considering that figure doesn’t account for the 15 percent of potable water that Santa Clara still uses to water the Mission Gardens and the Buck Shaw Stadium, Steven Schott Stadium and the softball fields, it doesn’t take a mathematician to see that Santa Clara is approaching almost three quarters of a billion gallons of water annually for our lawns. Of course, that’s assuming that the 12-year-old information on Santa Clara’s facilities website is still accurate.
Like a shopaholic purchasing unneeded luxury items simply because they were on sale, Santa Clara should not feel vindicated by the fact that “most” of their irrigation is supported by recycled water.
We should not be patting ourselves on the back for reducing potable water usage by 20 percent since January, according to facilities. It’s a step in the right direction, but California doesn’t have time for us to turn our good intentions into needed behavioral changes “one step at a time.”
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the editor of the Opinion Section.