Oregon State University is taking steps to reduce its water usage in response to serious drought conditions across the state and an executive order issued by Gov. Kate Brown that directs state agencies to curtail nonessential water use and implement water conservation measures.
While public universities are not required to follow the order, OSU is already taking measures to reduce water usage at its locations throughout Oregon.
The university is also reviewing its water conservation practices to assure they are in line with the governor’s order.
The university already practices water conservation efforts, including using low flow faucets and toilets in many buildings, carefully watching water meter usage to spot leaks, installing rainwater catch basins in newer buildings to use for toilet flushing and using a sophisticated irrigation control system across campus that measures temperature, humidity and evaporation rate.
OSU Interim President Becky Johnson said it’s imperative that OSU collaborates by reducing water usage at all of its locations, including the Corvallis campus, Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OSU-Cascades in Bend and Extension offices and experiment stations throughout the state.
“All Oregon State University employees and students can contribute by conserving the state’s dwindling water supply within the operation of our campuses, centers and offices,” Johnson said. “At the same time, OSU researchers are engaged in efforts to understand and address the many impacts of the drought and ensuing wildfires, and OSU Extension agents are providing support in communities experiencing hardships.”
At OSU-Cascades in Bend, a number of water conservation efforts are in place.
For example, the campus is working with the city of Bend for permission to defer until fall the installation of some new landscaping around the new Edward J. Ray Hall, when less irrigation will be required for the landscaping to become established. Additionally, about 90% of the OSU-Cascades campus is landscaped with native high desert plants that require no irrigation once established.
At the Corvallis campus, visitors may notice lawns turning brown as they are allowed to go dormant as part of the water conservation effort. This includes lawns around residence halls and those that are not used heavily by the public.
High-traffic areas, such as quads on the Corvallis campus, will continue to be watered but at a reduced level. Additionally, athletic fields will continue to be watered to ensure the safety of players.
OSU is reducing the amount of water applied to more drought-tolerant trees and shrubs. Other trees and landscape plants will continue to be watered to ensure their health, especially newly planted shrubs and vegetation.
“It is important to remember that OSU is a historic campus and we use the beautiful appearance of our campus as a recruiting and retention tool for students and staff, as well as a community resource,” said Joe Majeski, director of facilities services. “The Corvallis campus has a valuable collection of historic and rare trees and shrubs. These plants are a considerable investment and cannot go without some supplemental water.”
OSU Extension employees are working with stakeholders and county partners to evaluate mechanisms and implement strategies to reduce water use in their locations in every county in the state, said Anita Azarenko, interim vice provost for outreach and engagement and director of the Extension Service.
OSU College of Agricultural Sciences experiment stations throughout the state are taking water conservation measure one step further by developing more efficient irrigation technologies and using precision irrigation practices to help produce Oregon’s food supply.