It takes a two-day application of nearly 411,000 gallons of water to maintain 33.5 acres of green space on the Colorado College campus.
That amounts to anywhere from 38 to 42 million gallons per season, according to Jerry Switzer, Colorado College Landscaping and Grounds Manager.
This number might come as a bit of a shock as Colorado is experiencing what Governor John Hickenlooper has deemed “a water crisis.”
Yet cities across the state, including Colorado Springs, have been proactive in their response to the governor’s declaration. The Colorado Springs City Council recently voted to continue a Stage II water ban, restricting watering days and times and increasing the price of water per cubic foot.
The CC facilities and ground maintenance team is cognizant of the situation and is working to eliminate wasteful water use.
“I keep track of our usage, and I know that I don’t want it to get out of hand,” said Switzer. “We always want to lower our usage.”
Most of the inner campus green areas, including Armstrong Quad, are watered three times per week with non-potable water — a combination of treated domestic wastewater and “raw water” from Monument Creek. Other outlying buildings, including Cornerstone Hall, Packard Hall, and the President’s House, are watered twice a week with potable water.
The college waters six days per week in total.
Irrigation is monitored by a computer system that tracks such variables as rainfall, wind speed, and evaporative transpiration rates. After three-eights of an inch of rain, the system will shut off to avoid overwatering. At its peak, water rushes out of the sprinklers at a rate of 500 gallons per minute.
The mainline water system for non-potable water is isolated just to CC’s campus and does not service any other part of the city. Though there may be long-term financial payoff in running the entire system off non-potable water, the square footage of the area “is so small that it’s not worth it,” said Switzer.
“We’d have to run main lines under Cache la Poudre or Uintah to make that happen,” he said. “It would be quite an expense to expand it.”
In fiscal year 2012, irrigation water cost the college $105,830, less than one percent of the college’s annual budget. That amount, which does not include system maintenance, is expected to increase the coming fiscal year, according Campus Energy Manager Mark Ferguson.
But in the end, says Switzer, “what we pay doesn’t really matter as long as we’re trying to use less.”