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Campus Landscape Changing to Be Water Wise and Colorful

Oct. 16, 2014

Cal State Fullerton's landscape is changing, not only to make the campus more attractive but also to be more water wise.

The first inklings of the effort were seen in the plantings and swales south and west of the Eastside Parking Structure, around the third phase of student housing, around Langsdorf and Mihaylo halls and east of the Education Classroom Building. 

The latest changes can be seen on the plaza in front of Langsdorf Hall, between the Titan Student Union and the State College Parking Structure and around the Educational Classroom Building.

"It's slowly spreading into other areas of the campus," explained Willem van der Pol, director of facilities operations, pointing to a state mandate that state facilities decrease their water use by 20 percent by 2020.

"The other important element of the program is to create storm water retention systems through swales and basins, featured in several areas across campus," added van der Pol. "Rather than having storm water rush off to the ocean, we need to try to capture it so it can percolate in the aquifer." The water retention basins will absorb some of the water in places where it is beneficial.

Still, "landscape irrigation accounts for close to two-thirds of our water usage, so we will be replacing a lot of grass in the future," van der Pol said. "But there's no reason we can't keep the campus attractive while working toward meeting the state mandate."

Xeriscape, or dry-scape landscaping is complex to install, but easier to maintain, according to Greg Keil, landscape services manager, who oversee campus grounds. Installation involves removal of existing plantings and traditional sprinkler system followed by replacement with a drip system, a weed barrier and drought-tolerant plants.

New plantings include Chitalpa pink dawn, Desert Museum palo verde, Mexican bird of paradise and feather grass, salvia leucantha, lantana, agave, dwarf bougainvillea and geraniums. The project is completed with a layer of decomposed granite.

"In many areas, we also are adding trees that are more resistant to drought to replace some of the trees that are displaying heat stress symptoms or are getting too old," said Keil.

"We're looking at our overall landscape with the goal of saving water, spending our money more efficiently and maintaining a beautiful campus with more seating opportunities," said van der Pol.

Tags:  Campus UpdatesTitan Pride