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An overview of energy conservation projects on campus.
Products and resources for sustainable horticulture in California’s Central Valley.
Find out how to make your landscaping a little greener.
Slow-growing grass cultivar, developed by UC scientists, can grow into a drought-tolerant lawn for California's hot, dry summers.
All you need to know to grow a lawn using little or no pesticide, from the UC Integrated Pest Management program.
- 5.16.13 — Student Community Center earns LEED Platinum, UC Davis’ fifth
- 4.26.13 — Good to be green: Accolades add to UC Davis’ environmental reputation
- 8.14.12 — UC Davis is nation’s ‘Coolest School’
- 5.14.12 — UC Davis West Village a global model for sustainable urban planning
- 11.18.11 — UC Davis West Village a zero net energy model for city
Campus Progress: Water and Landscaping
Where we are
UC Davis is committed to fostering sustainable places that wisely steward our campus's natural resources, while creating a healthy, enriching physical environment for learning and discovery. That commitment includes the outdoor campus landscape, gateways to the Davis community and a network of natural reserves elsewhere in California that UC Davis manages.
From the themed collections of plants in the UC Davis Arboretum to the choice of grass variety in some lawns, campus landscaping is designed to be a resource for education, research and enjoyment.
Daily grounds operations use mulching mowers, plant selectively to reduce waste and chip landscape waste to recycle as mulch.
Discovering and demonstrating new ways to manage water efficiently not only saves campus operating costs, but serves as a model for a water-strapped state.
Testing technology for cleaner water treatment
UC Davis generates more than 1.7 million gallons of wastewater each day. A sanitary sewer collection system carries wastewater from offices, housing buildings, laboratories, food service facilities and other support facilities to the wastewater treatment plant in south campus.
Built in 1999, the wastewater treatment plant uses mercury lamps to disinfect the water with UV rays, a state-of-the-art technology that has been adopted by only 25 percent of the country's water treatment plants.
In 2009, a plan to purify wastewater with a new ultraviolet light technology won the Big Bang! business plan competition at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. The technology, developed by a UC Davis engineering professor, is an improvement to the mercury lamps, which are expensive to dispose of and require frequent cleaning. The new design uses xenon lamps that are less toxic and do not contact the water directly, thus requiring less cleaning.
The UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center and the Center for Entrepreneurship helped connect the professor's scientific development with a Ph.D. student and two MBA candidates to bring the technology to market, forming a start-up company called UltraV.
The start-up company is currently testing the technology at the UC Davis wastewater treatment facility, with cooperation from the UC Davis Facilities Management and campus engineers.
Saving water, mowing less
UC Verde buffalograss, developed by scientists at UC Davis and UC Riverside, is literally adding more green to campus in an efficient way.
UC Verde grass needs only about 25 percent the amount of water used for other turf grasses. The grass was included in the landscaping of the new Maurice J. Gallagher Hall, home to the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, in part to meet the Gold-level certification by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED).
In addition to being water-efficient, UC Verde grass is also extremely tough and dense with strong disease and insect resistance, which reduces the need for chemical applications, weeding or other maintenance. Because the grass variety grows very slowly in comparison to other varieties, it also needs to be mowed far less frequently.
Responding to weather with smarter irrigation
UC Davis has automated and centralized its landscape irrigation control to meet the demands of campus weather. In the past, irrigation specialists manually adjusted the water system when it rained, amounting to more than 900 hours of work per year.
Computerized central controls have transformed campus water conservation, saving an estimated 49 million gallons of water per year, almost one-third of total utility water used on campus.
The new system functions so that each night a central weather station and controller sends updated data about soil, plant type, rainfall, temperature, wind speed and humidity to computerized water controllers across campus. Watering schedules are adjusted accordingly.
Demonstrating hardy plants for local climates
The UC Davis Arboretum includes 17 gardens covering 100 acres meandering through campus, a living museum with plant collections from throughout five continents. Highlighted among them are the Arboretum All-Stars, many of which are plants native to California and all of which are particularly well suited to Central Valley growing conditions.
The Arboretum All-Star plants are tested under different irrigation frequencies and in a variety of climate zones, as a cooperative effort between UC Davis horticulturists, Arboretum staff, California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers and nursery industry partners.
The UC Davis Arboretum is committed to practicing, promoting and teaching Central Valley-wise gardening. This concept takes into consideration water-saving irrigation systems, mulching, companion plantings, biological pest control and other sustainable horticultural practices. In addition to hosting UC Davis classes, the Arboretum staff members also hold environmental education programs for elementary school students and community members.
Counting value of campus trees
In 1906 the newly developed campus was bare, but over the last 100 years more than 17,000 trees have been planted.
The campus forest canopy now covers one-fifth of the main campus area. According to a campus tree analysis, the trees save UC Davis an estimated $106,000 per year on electricity and natural gas costs.
Adding in aesthetics, shade, erosion control, pollution prevention and other benefits brings the savings total to approximately $700,000 per year.
The Shields Oak Grove at the UC Davis Arboretum has been recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium as having national significance, for having the greatest taxonomic diversity of any other oak grove. The grove serves as a scientific resource for researchers to study genetic, biochemical and ecological traits of oaks.
- 2008. Energy Conservation Newsletter, UC Davis Office of Administration
- 2009. Clean Water, Better Backs, Dry Legs Are Winners in Business Plan Competition
- 2007. Overview Of The UC Davis Wastewater Collection And Treatment System
- 2005. Findings and approval of the University of California Davis Campus Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion Project
- 2009. College Sustainability Report Card, UC Davis survey responses
- 2005. 100 year tree plan
- 2007. Professor sowed the seeds of diverse oak tree collection in arboretum (Dateline)