On May 5th, 2015 the college wrote in detail about the implementation of water conservation strategies throughout campus, yet since then there have been no updates or improvements made.
By Eden Llodrá
It is 2021 and California is continuing on another year with immense drought. The question remains, what are people doing about it, and more specifically, what has Saint Mary’s done since addressing the issue in 2015? With more than twenty-two residence halls and 1,600 students living on campus, there is a lot of water usage. From showering to irrigating the grass fields, there is a lot of campus maintenance and human necessities that require water.
Many areas on campus have been identified as non-irrigation sites and AstroTurf has been placed instead of real grass. All campus irrigation is automated and an on-campus weather station was installed to save water, energy, time, and money. In 2016 there was a 25% reduction in water use for landscaping and a 56% reduction in ballfield irrigation water use since 2009, by installing play turf field surfaces.
In an interview with Joel Burley, a member of the Sustainability Committee, when asked about whether or not the committee has made any improvements since 2015, he said “There have been no recent big policy changes in regards to water use. Most efforts have been working on more solar power on campus.” This reiterated, that since 2015 there have been no updates or improvements made in the realm of water conservation.
The reason for no progress being made in the last six years also has to do with Saint Mary’s finances. Burley said, “Everything is based on college finances and enrollment is down. In order for this to be viable, one would have to show Saint Mary’s that there will be economic and environmental benefits. The question also comes down to ‘how much do we save?”
When asked about whether the dorms provide water conservation guidelines, Leilani Love, a junior, replied “There are no signs anywhere. I think it’s really important that students are made more aware of these issues since it isn't something that is being heavily promoted.” In 2015, the school mentioned reducing hot water wait times for showers by installing hot water circulation pumps, yet there are no signs educating students to shorten their shower times.
From another perspective, a question that is posed is whether incoming students will find the campus attractive or not if the greenery is taken away. Burley says, “The worry is that more native plants and less grass might be unappealing to new students coming to campus and currently enrollment is already down.” The improvement of water conservation ends up coming down to the level of financial security the college has.
Ryan Ford '23,