Picture water 10 feet deep over the entire expanse of the next lawn you see. That is how much water that lawn will drink in the time of one year. If we add up all the lawns in the city, we’ve got a lake, and each year we decide not to change our lawns we take that lake and just throw it mindlessly on the ground.
Water is a hot commodity around the world and in California. A report by The Bay Area Economic Forum titled “Hetch Hetchy Water and the Bay Area Economy” states that our largest water reserve can supply 239 mgd (million gallons a day) yet it “currently operates 21 mgd above the assured supply capacity.” That is a whole lot of water that we don’t need when you consider that the average California residence uses more than half of its water on landscaping.
San Francisco is full of forward-thinking people, many of whom see the vast Lone Mountain lawn from the windows of the 31 bus each day and cringe just as I do to think of the wasted water. So why does USF showcase such an atrocity all around its front stoop?
“Think about how many years people have gone to school here, and this sort of expectation that the lawn will still be here,” considers Professor Melinda Stone. “When they reminisce they can still see it. What we’re starting to learn in the environmental movement is that people know what’s good, but to get them to shift their daily practices is really hard to do.”
If not lawn, then what? The bright side of the tragic lawn issue is that it’s an easy ﬁx. Simply by eliminating the lawn, the problem disappears. If we replace the lawn with a garden full of ﬂowers and fruit trees water can be saved. Any living landscape requires some water, but not nearly as much as a blanket of grass.
If grass is still the preference, then why not try out a local bluegrass instead. It’d be aesthetically the same, softer to the touch and would require virtually no added water because it is adapted to California’s climate.
Brittany Rowles, recent USF graduate, wrote her senior thesis with a proposal to change the space from the unused lawn into a vibrant and living place for learning and student engagement.
Rowles begins: “First we would take out the lawn, then we would divide the space into quadrants which would be given to different classes that are interested in the space. The garden classes could get a quadrant on which to plant fruit trees while an engineering class could get a quadrant on which to build temporary structures or models…The basic premise is to transform what is now just grass that no one uses, and make it into a space that students can engage in and make their own.”
Wouldn’t you feel much more involved in USF if you had even just a small section of the publicly visible campus which you could truly make your own?
My biggest complaint is that all of the change I see at USF is under the inﬂuence of a business motive which asks, “How can we expand, get more students, and make more money?”. I want to see change for the we-need-to-save-our-world motive which asks, “How can we use less and help more?”
Currently USF is going through the process of proposing a whole new development. The aim is to build one more dormitory on Lone Mountain. What will be done, will be done. I would just like to suggest that we can save a lot of water with just a little effort toward change. What do you think USF, are you with me?