Scripps College deals with the drought

By Natalie Camrud ‘17 & Erin Matheson '18
Fashion Columnist & Staff Writer

The state of California is in a severe drought. With raging summertime wildfires and rain and snowfall precipitation almost twenty inches below the average, Californians are painfully conscious of this state of emergency. As members of a progressive, academic institution, both the administration and students at Scripps are tackling the challenge of limiting water consumption head on.  Over the summer, things looked a little different on the Scripps campus: most of the fountains were turned off in an effort to prevent water from evaporating, and renovations for water-conscious irrigation systems began. According to the Scripps

Director of Grounds, Lola Trafecanty, “This summer we have been working on irrigation system upgrades for better water management. We will be done with this project by winter break.”

In addition, approximately 8,500 square feet of lawns along Platt Boulevard were replaced by native and drought-tolerant plant materials during the summer. According to the Scripps Grounds team, “The Platt Islands lawn was removed and all spray heads were eliminated and replaced with a drip system for water-use savings.” The dozens of sprinklers that were replaced were spraying up to three gallons of water per minute — three gallons per minute that California does not have to spare. The project on Platt reduces the amount of water-guzzling grass and plants and instead utilizes adapted, low-water-consumption plants.

Scripps students are also helping spread awareness to fellow students about conserving water. On the first day of Orientation, students from the Water Task Force, headed by Jessica Ng ‘15 and Lauren Mitten ‘15, came to each dorm and distributed “shower coaches” — five-minute timers put on the walls of the showers.

“We were considering forms of water use over which students actually have control,” Ng said. “Last semester we ordered 50 timers for Clark and Toll to test the Shower Coach timer model…We actually went into showers and measured their flow rates with a Nalgene [water bottle] and a stopwatch so we could estimate water use and savings.” The Water Task Force estimated that the shower coaches saved about seventeen thousand gallons per week in Clark and Toll alone and said that student reactions have been extremely positive. This year the Water Task Force distributed them to every dorm and off-campus housing, and estimates water savings of seventy-eight thousand gallons per week. These five-minute timers make Scripps students more conscious about their water consumption and insodoing allow them to make positive change.

This year, the Grounds team is dedicating Fridays to irrigation repairs and audits. Their new schedule should expedite the process of fixing problems on campus.

“Water conservation is a high priority for the Department of Grounds, however many times misunderstood by those walking the campus,” Trafecanty said. “At times, such as after Orientation, people presume we are over watering, when we are trying to revive the lawns where water has been off for typically seven to nine days due to event set ups and venues on these lawns. We are on what is called ‘alluvial soil’ (fast-draining-soil composition). Therefore, you may see the same sprinklers coming on for cycle/soak cycles to allow for less run off and more water in soil for roots, given our soil composition and layouts. Irrigation systems are never perfect and require constant review and attention. On a college campus, sprinklers, rotors, are many times ‘toyed with’ and/or ‘run over,’ causing them to be broken, redirected or tampered with in other ways. In attempts to minimize this issue at corners of lawns we placed turfblock to protect both the lawn and the sprinklers in these areas.”

The Grounds Department is making changes in order to adapt to the environment and drought. Although positive changes are being implemented there is still more to do. To get involved, contact Mitten or Ng on the Water Task Force and email if you see broken sprinklers or leaks in the bathrooms.