Sprinkler? I Hardly Know Her

Opinion by Jackson Hare, Campus News Editor

Nearly every night, I enjoy a short walk around campus to clear my mind prior to going to bed. Last week, the night after a very rainy day, I was walking along my usual route down the Academic Mall and was shocked to find that my path was entirely obstructed by the sweeping spray of sprinklers wetting the already-dampened grass and the brick walkways, forming pools of water. 

Not only was I frustrated that I had to bear the spray of cold water as I skirted past the sprinklers’ line of fire, but I was bothered by the incredible waste of water — and this was not an isolated incident. 

There are several issues with Xavier’s groundskeeping as it relates to watering and maintaining the grass. First, the range and span of the sprinklers on campus are highly inaccurate. I’m rather confident in saying that most students can recall a time where they may have confused campus walkways for an outdoor water park, as the sprinklers were spraying the sidewalks more than they were the grass. 

Aside from this being an annoyance to students walking to and from class during the early parts of the morning, this contributes to a notable waste of water. I have seen countless puddles form on the walkways and water flowing into nearby drains rather than being soaked up by the grass. 

For instance, that aforementioned night, as I headed toward the Village Apartments I saw water from the sprinklers up near Schott Hall streaming through the grooves in the brick pavement all the way down Dana Avenue, notably far from the intended target patch of grass. 

Additionally, let’s not forget it had rained all day. What purpose was there to be watering the grass? What this tells me is that the campus sprinkler system is set on a timer in order to autonomously water the grass without having to monitor it. 

However, as I observed, this allows for a great deal of water to be wasted, and it appears to allow problems with the sprinkler to go unchecked. For instance, I have seen a number of sprinklers that simply don’t spray the nice mist they should. Some appear to be malfunctioning with water gorging out, not making it even an inch from the sprinkler head which forms those large puddles of water that escapes the grass. 

To a student like myself, I see these puddles and think of them as a minor inconvenience as I hop over them, but I have also begun to wonder what the cost of this really looks like. I can imagine Xavier does not have a cheap water bill, and when I think about the fact that gallons of water end up wasted from a poorly managed and faulty sprinkler system, that could certainly amount to a needless waste of money, not to mention a poor expression of our commitment to sustainability. 

As for a solution to this problem, there are several approaches. More attention needs to be spent on the maintenance and the use of the sprinklers. There is no reason they should be watering the grass after a rainy day. Overwatering the grass could contribute more harm than good, perpetuating the problem it seeks to resolve.

Generally speaking, Xavier is in need of a more intuitive and updated sprinkler system. The span of the sprinklers needs to be more precise to ensure minimal water ends up wasted and drying up on the sidewalks, flowing into nearby drains or spraying unsuspecting victims walking to class. While I understand this is likely not a cheap solution, I believe in the long run we would save more money with less water waste, and it is a strategy in which Xavier can affirm its commitment to a sustainable campus. 

A more cost effective solution in which its benefits are twofold would be to cut the grass less often or not as short. When grass is cut too short it is far more vulnerable to the sun and is more likely to become non-aesthetic brown and dry, requiring watering to revive it. So, if we cut the grass less, letting it grow slightly longer, we can limit the amount of gas spent on mowers and protect the grass from dying without having to water it as frequently. 

Since we don’t water it as frequently, the grass doesn’t regrow as quickly and we would have effectively created a new cycle of grounds maintenance that is more sustainable and requires less effort. That combined with improving the efficiency of the sprinkler system will allow the once waterpark to become the garden it ought to be.