Facing Historic Drought, Claremont Colleges Reduce Water Usage

From shower timers to dry fountains to mulched-over lawns, signs of the California drought can be seen all over the Claremont Colleges. 

Pomona College’s most visible action has been the shutdown of many on-campus fountains, including those outside the school’s two dining halls and in the Academic Quad. Four acres of turf have also been replaced by mulch.

Pomona environmental analysis professor Char Miller said that some exotic trees have been replaced by trees better suited to Claremont’s climate.

At Scripps College, drought-resistant grass varieties have been planted and many of the lawns outside residence halls and around academic buildings have been replaced by mulch, according to the Scripps website.

Miller said that the new grass at Scripps has a deeper root system and thus requires less water.

“Exposing students to this issue is very important,” said Stephanie Lin SC ‘15, noting that signs around campus remind students of the importance of conserving water.

Recently, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) replaced the grass in Mid Quad with woodchips and traditional showerheads with eco-friendly ones. CMC’s fountains still remain in operation, however, and sprinklers operate at night on Green Beach and Parent’s Field.

Pitzer College has implemented a variety of drought measures, including replacing 3.5 acres of turf with sand or woodchips, which retain water better than turf and decrease the amount of water turnover on campus. Pitzer also introduced waterless urinals in the bathrooms and replaced the McConnell Dining Hall dishwasher with a more energy-efficient model, according to the Pitzer website.

In 2012, the Claremont Colleges approved a water reclamation plan, which would involve recycling sewage water. However, the plan was halted in 2014 due to changes within the Claremont University Consortium (CUC).

Miller added that the colleges can act as an example for institutions across California. “If we can demonstrate wise use of water and wiser uses of landscaping, that strikes me as not just a moral imperative but a pedagogical one,” Miller said.

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