Posted: 8/04/05

TAMIU Commits to Conservative Water Use Strategy to Keep Green



It's hard to be green...to quote TV Muppet Kermit the Frog.

For Texas A&M International University, at 300 acres one of the city's largest green spaces, being green also means being in the black...on the balance sheet, that is.

"It's a challenge," admits TAMIU director of the physical plant, Richard Gentry. "In addition to maintaining about 150 acres of developed landscape, we also have residential facilities on campus and a chilled-water loop HVAC system to cool and heat the campus. Keeping our water costs low and getting the most from our resources requires some keen management and conservation," Gentry said.

Gentry said one strong advantage the University enjoys despite these challenges is the foresight that went into the campus' landscape design over 10 years ago.

"Our landscape designers accurately projected that water resources mandated conservative plantings, with strong use of native plants and xeriscaping strategies. This has really paid off in a campus that is water-wise, yet still capable of maintaining a green space," he said.

Those green spaces beckon to not only the University community of students, faculty and staff, but also to its extended community of alumni and citizens from throughout the area.

"Our Lamar Bruni Vergara Memorial Garden, a strong example of using heat-tolerant and water-miserly plants, has become a favorite place for picnics, nature walks and even the occasional wedding," Gentry noted.

The University has already responded to the City's water rationing schedule announced last week, adjusted watering schedules and conducted a check of all sprinkler heads to make sure that all were firing, even in the dead of night.

"Our close working relationship with the city and their advice to us on additional savings strategies will allow us to maintain our investment here," he added, "During recent low pressure situations in this part of town, we've taken some comfort in knowing that since our irrigation system produces its own pressure, we don't affect the city's mainline pressure."

Adrian Montemayor, of the City's Water Department, said the City considers the University one of its most water-use aware customers and constituents. 

"They have one of the largest complexes in Laredo with significant water needs, but they've made a concerted effort to commit to conservation measures that allow them to continue to realize their facilities' potential while preserving their green spaces," Montemayor said.

Gentry, who comes from a long family line of savvy gardeners, said that people don't often realize that landscapes for large public spaces are a considerable investment.

"For example, look at our playing fields...if they're not maintained with a regular watering schedule, they will brown, become a fire hazard or have to be replaced with new sod. By maintaining the space with an appropriate, but conservative watering schedule, we actually reduce future replacement expenses," he explained.

Gentry said that even as the campus continues to grow, it can only do so with a dedicated eye to conservation.

"Our area's water woes aren't going to go away overnight.  Everyone needs to do their fair share to make sure that we all have both big green spaces and little green spaces to go home to," he said.

For more information on the University's physical plant operations and programs, contact Gentry at 326.2325, visit offices in the Physical Plant, room 200 or email rgentry@tamiu.edu.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu