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Grounds crew prepared to face drought

California’s historic drought is shocking the state, leaving farmers in panic and

community fighting over water supplies, but PLNU is braced to face the harsh

conditions, according to the university’s horticulture manager.

“The campus is doing fine. I think we’ll be able to adapt and still have nice views of

the ocean, nice shady trees, and still have a pleasing setting even amid the drought,”

Kathy Conner, PLNU horticulture manager said.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency on Jan. 17 in response to the driest

year in recorded history for the state.

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible

consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less

waters for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural

areas,” Brown said on the day of the declaration. “I’ve declared this emergency and

I’m calling Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

While no mandatory water conservation requirements have been made for

California citizens, Brown asked that Californians voluntarily reduce their water

usage by 20 percent. For San Diego, the Public Utilities Department has announced

that the city’s water supply is stable.

“At this time, we do not anticipate any additional water-use restrictions for San

Diego in 2014,” said Halla Razak, Director of the City’s Public Utilities Department

in a public statement. “Thanks to strong regional conservation efforts and the

investment that agencies have made in diversifying the region’s water supply

portfolio, we are in better shape than many parts of California.”

In 2008, San Diego faced one of its worst drought levels in decades, and then city

mayor Jerry Sanders was aggressive in calling for county-wide water conservation.

That’s when PLNU began to take a look at how to better manage its grounds in the

face of drought conditions, according to Conner.

“We curtailed on water quite a bit back then and ever since then we’ve been

installing water-saving devices for the landscape,” Conner said.

Beyond lack of water to support plant life throughout campus, Conner said the

possibility for and increase in pests is a major factor during droughts, and that PLNU

has had some issues with them as the drought has worsened over the past few

years. The campus has implemented many new water-saving devices, and has even

switched out some species of plants for more drought tolerant species over the past

few years, according to Conner.

“If we can get our plant materials accustomed to less water now, then when we’re

having to cut back, they will already be used to it so it won’t have quite an impact,”

Conner said.

Conner predicts that if conditions worsen, the look of the campus could begin to


“If you look over at the south of our campus, we are in a desert and the coastal

scrub is our native, natural habitat here,” Conner said. “It could eventually, if things

continued and we got into more severe drought, we could end up looking more like

that over there. But I can’t see that happening over night.”

However there are some good signs for the campus as it fights through 2014 waiting

for rain.

“There are a lot of microclimates throughout San Diego,” said Conner “The coast is

the better place to be in a drought because you do have the marine layer, the fog

and the shading and so that does help a little bit with some water retention. It’s not

necessarily enough to keep us thriving, but it sure helps.

Although being next to the ocean benefits the campus, the grounds crew is

still preparing to cut back on water usage.

“I accept that this summer we’re going to have to go to mandatory cutbacks where

you can only water on certain days of the week,” said Conner. “We will probably

look at trying to cut back even more on our water. We’ll be watching our clocks and

our runoff really carefully. But it will really come down to what the city mandates

that we can and can’t do.”