University of Utah making changes to campus landscape to conserve water

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Cutting water use by 15 percent may not sound like a lot, but when it's covering hundreds of acres at the University of Utah, it can add up.

This summer, the University of Utah is taking big steps to become more water-wise by changing areas of grass to drought tolerant green space.

“We started looking at this more than a decade ago--ways we can use less water--and that's through a variety of tactics and what we're focused on right now is areas of landscape that could be converted,” said Shireen Ghorbani, who is with University of Utah’s Facilities Management.

Within the next several weeks, landscape planners and maintenance crews will finish adding 30,000 square feet of landscaping better suited for Utah’s dry, hot climate.

“Landscaping is a really important issue here on campus due to the amount of water it can potentially use," said Stephanie Dolmat-Connell, a Sustainability Manager at the University of Utah’s Facilities Management. "We're looking for ways we can save on water and have more high-efficient irrigation."

From rocks and Utah native plants--to woodchips and mulch, the water-wise changes are saving as much as 60 percent of water, which can be cost-effective.

“In the long run you can actually save quite a bit of money, there's less labor to take care of water-wise landscapes,” Dolmat-Connell said.

The university’s project is on a large-scale, but experts say it can give you good ideas for your own landscape.

“We can still have gardens that are vibrant, full of color and texture--provide all the elements that we want, and we can do it in ways that are much more environmentally friendly,” said Patrick Newman, Director of Programs at Red Butte Garden.

Newman said to get started, first pick one section where you can improve--whether that be a change in grass, or adding a Utah native plant

“If we all do a little bit we end up doing a lot together," Newman said. "Even starting small, if we remove a little bit of turf grass, if we all do that, the collective benefits are huge."

Red Butte gardens has tips on becoming more water-wise, here.

1 Comment

  • Burton S Johnson

    HI Kiersten
    Nice story. I’m going to have to start following your work.

    Congratulations to University of Utah for making a hot and dry climate more hot and dry in the interest of being waterwise. It doesn’t have to be that way. Observe the north slope faces of our mountains. They are cool and forested. People in the Universities EPSCoR water conservation research project have had it pointed out to them that
    creating shade landscapes wherever possible is not only water wise but also creates the environment humans are genetically programmed to seek out. Unfortunately it didn’t it register on them before spending a lot money to create a human unfriendly hot and dry landscape.

    There is a bigger story to be told. So far no one in the media has had the ability to grasp it. Feel free to contact me if you think that you and fox 13 might.

    Burton S Johnson
    801 414 4222

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