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Davis Journal

School District looks for ways to conserve water at all of its facilities

May 27, 2022 10:44AM ● By Becky Ginos

(Editor’s Note—This is one of our continuing series  stories as part of our Davis Journal Water Watchers campaign)

FARMINGTON—With landscaping at 90 schools and more than 100 facilities that need watering, the Davis School District is planning ways to meet the challenges of the drought.

“We’re facing the same restrictions as everyone else,” said John Swain, director of the Environmental Maintenance Department for the district. “One day a week is half of what we were allotted last year. At the smaller schools we can do it but at the larger ones there are water stations in the hundreds.”

Swain said they’re allowed to water each station/zone once a week. “That will take three different days at high schools. People will see that and think we’re not conserving but we take care with water. It’s 60 percent less than normal and water was turned on later. We’ve basically lost a month of watering.”

The majority of the facilities are pressured, he said. “A third are culinary and two thirds are irrigation. We’re going to borrow water from the less utilized areas and reallocate it to the play areas.”

The district also uses a weather track metering system that is tied to a satellite, said Swain. “It gives data from a weather station that can assess plant material and if it is hotter it waters more and less when it’s cooler. It also lets us know when a sprinkler line breaks and we can monitor that remotely and turn it off or shut a valve down. If we don’t see it and respond, at one day a week of watering we’ve lost a week.”

The grass will be browning but it’s not dead, said Swain. “It’s dormant. When it gets cooler it will snap out of it. People will say ‘oh they’re letting it die’ but grass is pretty resilient.”

 Swain said they’re interested in preserving the mature landscapes. “We were in a severe drought last year and again this year. It’s not going to come and go. It’s a pattern that will be our new normal for a while. New growth is demanding more of our resources.”

The district is being as conscientious as possible, he said. “We’re trying to be water wise and use low water plants, gravel, mulch and drip low water spray to reduce the need for water in new schools. Some we’ll retrofit and take out water demanding lawn and replace it with water wise landscaping. We’re headed in that direction. We’ll deal with that as we go forward.”

USU extension has been very helpful, said Swain. “They have a water wise program that’s tied into the state so we’ve tried to incorporate that with a better blend of grasses that are less demanding. We actually conserved more than was required last year.”

The irrigation water was turned on May 16. “You’ll probably see us start to water but it will vary school to school,” he said. “We typically water up to October but they could turn it off in September. It depends on if we get supplemental water.”

Swain said they also need to preserve their playing fields. “We’ll work with the leagues but we might have to pull some reservations or decline some. Kids are using those during the day, night and weekends. There’s no rest for those facilities. Everybody is looking for fields to use but if we wear them out there will be no fields at all.”

It’s going to be challenging for cities too, he said. “It will be interesting to see how well the whole county does. The schools are a major water user so everyone is looking at us. We all have to conserve together. We’re all in it.” λ