Water Conservation at The Huntington
Using Water Wisely
California's ongoing drought is in its third year, and the need to conserve water is an urgent priority for us all. At The Huntington, we have been working diligently for several years to reduce water consumption and improve efficiency. Here are some of the ways we're doing that.
Increased Efficiency, Reduced Waste
The Huntington has partnered with experts in the field of irrigation science to redesign existing irrigation systems to reduce waste. We continue to install low-flow sprinkler heads and nozzles and set sprinkler run times based on factors such as plant type, soil type, slope, exposure to sunlight, and data that measure a plant’s moisture loss.Each garden is being retrofitted, with older systems being replaced with new water-saving technology to further increase efficiency.
Where automated systems are in place (all lawns, for example), watering can be done in the middle of the night to reduce evaporation losses. However, some areas of the gardens require physically moving spray heads on hoses into various areas -- because outdated systems have not yet been replaced. In this case, garden staff check regularly to visually determine when plants need water. A third way of watering – spraying plants by hand -- is even more closely targeted, so over-watering is greatly reduced. Meanwhile, the process of automation is ongoing.
Reduced Groundwater Use
The Huntington has groundwater rights to a small percentage of water in the Raymond Basin aquifer, much of the water used for irrigation on the property comes from that source. In conjunction with the other Raymond Basin groundwater users, The Huntington has reduced its groundwater rights by 30 percent over the last five years in an effort to help raise groundwater levels throughout the Raymond Basin. This has forced the institution to use water resources as efficiently as possible, and, more importantly, to plan for a future with less available water.
The Huntington has made it a priority to use drought-tolerant plants for landscaping around new installations. A number of new areas, including the Koblik Education and Visitor Center, have been designed to feature California natives and dry-climate plants. Moreover, one of The Huntington's oldest and most distinguished gardens showcases thousands of species of desert cacti and succulents. But it is important to keep in mind that the Huntington is a botanical garden with a mission to grow and propagate many different types of plants; the importance of maintaining The Huntington’s historically and botanically important biodiversity cannot be underestimated.
Lawns play an important role in making the gardens comfortable -- they have a major cooling effect -- for our 600,000 visitors each year. Thus, we are working to focus on maintaining the lawns that people use – for walking, sitting, and for other activities, while reducing ones that are not as significant. We also know that some of the lawns are extremely important as signature features of this historic estate; preserving the integrity of those vistas, while reducing the amount of lawn we care for, is part of our longer-term plan.