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Health, Science & Environment

U of U Zeroing in on Drought-Tolerant Landscaping

Within the next couple of weeks, University of Utah landscape planners and maintenance crews will have converted 30,000 square feet of lawn to more drought-tolerant green space on campus.

Some areas are expected to cut water use by as much as 60%. Susan Pope is the university’s facilities manager of open space. She says they are expanding use of a type of grass with a stronger root structure than the more popular Kentucky Blue Grass.

“So it’s a tall fescue that we’re using and then we have some bio native, bio meadows that we’re using on slopes that we can let grow a little bit longer and stop erosion and fill up the hillside with turf,” says Pope.

As a 30-year employee of the U, Pope says water conservation really became a concern after the 2002 drought. She says now they use a local weather monitoring station and a central control system to run the 3,600 different zones and nearly 30,000 sprayers and drip systems.

“And the system waters according to the water loss. The irrigation systems could water every day, it could water once a week,” says Pope, “it just depends on how much water loss and how much moisture we get.”    

Pope says home owners can save water using the same techniques, just on a much smaller scale. She says tall trees and green spaces help cool campus buildings in the summer much like the numerous evaporative cooling towers at the U.

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