The Owl Fountain, located at the end of the Campus Center Mall has remained drained out in an effort to conserve water on campus. (Evan Solano/Citrus)
According to data provided by the utility responsible for monitoring and regulating local water used by Citrus College, the campus has reduced consumption by nearly 20 percent from pre-drought year levels.
Azusa Light and Water detailed the college’s month-to-month usage rates for the previous five years thus facilitating this analysis. California’s infamous drought, now in its third year, prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in January.
The documents provided by the utility recapped the school’s water usage in measurements of CCF’s. 1 CCF is equal to 100 cubic feet of water used, so a meter reading of 3 CCF’s would mean that the user consumed 300 cubic feet of water for that month.
Information posted on the utility’s website states that it declared a Phase III water shortage in May.
During a Phase III water shortage, the utility calls for up to 20 percent reduction in water use based on available water supply and demand information. It also mandates that commercial and public agencies, including Citrus College, limit their lawn watering and landscape irrigation to Mondays and Fridays from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. the following morning.
Quoting an email written by AL&W director George Morrow, key accounts manager Paul Reid explained that the utility maintains some of the most comprehensive and rigorous usage policy monitoring and enforcement procedures in the state.
“Although the 20 percent figure is more of a target reduction, we use the various resources at our disposal to ensure that there is a significant level of compliance to our policies,” Reid said.
AL&W had begun to adopt policies before the drought began such as specific lawn watering schedules for businesses and residents in the event that a drought scenario would arise, he said.
“We have been out ahead of this from the beginning, so we aren’t exactly feeling the pressure other agencies may be facing,” Reid said.
The facilities department at Citrus has acknowledged the severity of the worsening drought by taking specific actions to reduce overall water consumption.
Grounds supervisor Randy Cable cited multiple efforts by the campus administration and facilities department over the past several years that have allowed the school to get out ahead of any serious water shortages.
The effort to conserve is perhaps best represented by the bone-dry condition of arguably the college’s most identifiable landmark: the Owl Fountain.
Cable explained that the college has installed turf on several sports fields, including the football stadium, driving range, and softball field to reduce water consumption.
On a guided tour of the campus, Cable pointed out several landscaped areas that are either on drip irrigation systems or must be watered by hand.
“It is really a huge undertaking on Tuesday mornings to ensure that all of our landscape areas are adequately watered,” Cable said. “My crew starts at 6 a.m. and we only have four hours to get the job done and remain in compliance with the utility’s policy on irrigation.”
The impact of reduced watering is noticeable in many areas of the campus. Trees and plants growing in areas where the soil naturally retains less water are beginning to dry out as a result.
The school has also planned ahead by taking steps to alleviate future demand for water.
When the newly remodeled Administration Building was opened in June, the facilities department planted drought resistant plant species such as sage and ferns to beautify the area surrounding the building.
“You can look all over campus to see how we are improving efficiency and conserving valuable resources, from the addition of LED lights in the parking lots to the use of mulch in the flower beds to retain water” Cable said.
Jeff Eichler, environmental health program supervisor, said that while the campus has met the target set by the water utility, individuals in the community could be more diligent in conserving.
“People think that just because water keeps pouring out of a hose that everything is ok,” Eichler said. “But all we need to do is look to the north and realize that we are really stressing the water supply at the current rate.”
“If the water wasting culture doesn’t change, we could really be in trouble sooner than we think.”