UC Berkeley's water conservation measures called into question

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ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Some question UC Berkeley's water reductions during the drought
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UC Berkeley says it has cut water irrigation on campus by 50 percent, but some people think the lawns are still too green during the drought.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Six months ago, Governor Jerry Brown of California declared a drought and called for everyone to do their part and cut back consumption by 20 percent. But this far down the line, with no rain in sight, it appears not everyone is doing their part.

Part of what makes the UC Berkeley campus so special are the acres and acres of lush green trees and its park-like setting. In the midst of a drought though, some feel the lawns on campus are a too healthy.

"We've actually cut back 50 percent on the irrigation on campus," said Christine Shaff, UC Berkeley Spokesperson.

The grass is green despite significant cutbacks in campus water usage over the past six months. One of the steps they've taken is only watering the grass at night.

"Water use overall on campus is down 5 to 9 percent since the governor declared a drought in January. We're working hard to reduce our water use even more. Water use in the residence halls is down 30 percent in the last six years," said Shaff.

Still, it appears other state institutions are being much more aggressive about their water reduction. For instance, irrigation of the lawns around the State Capitol in Sacramento has been cut off completely. There are even signs to explain to visitors why the grass looks so bad.

Heather Cooley is the director of the Pacific Institute water program in Oakland. She says some water users are waking up to the seriousness of the situation a little slower than others.

"Well, we all need to be doing it frankly, there is no excuse. This is a drought. It's a severe drought and we all need to step up," said Cooley.

There is a plan at UC Berkeley to reduce water consumption even further. There is currently no widespread use of recycled or reclaimed water, yet six of the lawns on campus have been identified for removal.