Drought-Tolerant Landscaping, Artificial Turf, Chancellor Block, and You

By Grace Olson

As I was updating our Action Research Team’s survey before our stakeholder meeting with Tracy Dudman, I received an e-mail from none other than Chancellor Gene D. Block, titled “Please Help UCLA Respond to the Drought Emergency.” I quickly opened his announcement and read with excitement. Equally horrified at the update that California was experiencing a true drought emergency, yet thrilled that Chancellor Block was reaching out to the UCLA community about this important issue, I noticed that issues our Water Action Research Team was specifically working on, were cited.

Drought tolerant landscaping on South Campus. In our survey, students were asked if they had noticed drought tolerant landscaping on campus, and so far about 70% of respondents said they had not noticed.

Drought tolerant landscaping on South Campus. In our survey, students were asked if they had noticed drought tolerant landscaping on campus, and so far about 70% of respondents said they had not noticed.

UCLA recognizes that it uses drought-tolerant landscaping on campus and on the Hill to efficiently use and conserve water. Our team hopes to expand these efforts with help from student support. Our survey about drought-tolerant landscaping on the Hill has already reached over 250 responses, with preliminary findings suggesting overwhelming support for increased drought-tolerant landscaping expansion on campus and on the Hill. What’s more, after informing survey participants about the water crisis and UCLA’s commitment of a 20% water reduction per person by 2020, the average support for drought-tolerant landscaping installation increased. We also asked students what particular California native, drought-tolerant plants they wanted to see on campus, in the hope that this knowledge will give landscape planners and architects some guidance in landscaping.

Chancellor Block also recognized that installing artificial turf on the Intramural Field will save an estimated 6.4 million gallons of water per year. Our team is finalizing a survey to be released on campus about possibly converting other areas of campus to artificial turf. Some possibilities for conversion include grass medians along sidewalks, or even grass quads in areas like the Court of Sciences, Dickson Plaza, and Wilson Plaza. If the numbers are so high for converting the IM field, why simply stop there?

Landscaping is such a large component of water use and an area for improvement in conservation. If we are able to present data with high support for both conversion of current landscaping to drought-tolerant landscaping and artificial turf, then UCLA can progress even further to reach its goals outlined in the 2020 Water Action Plan. We are behind you Chancellor Block, and our Water Action Research Team is doing our part to help UCLA reach its water reduction goals.

Photograph courtesy of UCLA Today.