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U. landscaping project expected to save 100K gallons of water per year

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SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah students have secured a $10,797 grant from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund to push forward a landscape design project expected to save 100,000 gallons of water per year.

The eight-month project is coming to an end Thursday as volunteers and students come together to replace 8,000 square feet of grass with trees and plants that require less water.

"I think it's genius," said volunteer Nicky McMillen, a senior studying hospitality management. "For one of my classes, I was reading about golf courses and how much water they use keep the grass green. … I think this will be a much more efficient means of making the campus look beautiful."

The $15,347 project required roughly $6,000 in additional funding, so students and landscape personnel from the University of Utah's Office of Sustainability decided to team up to get the job done.

For second-year doctorate student Elise Gatti, the project is beneficial for more than water conservation. The University of Utah is also hoping to receive Tree Campus USA recognition, a program that acknowledges universities and colleges that promote healthy trees.

"This project is not just about conserving water," Gatti said. "This project is also about beautifying the campus and creating a sense of place. We are meeting multiple needs with projects like this."

The new "low-water" trees and shrubs will be going in just north of the S.J. Quinney College of Law building, said Troy Bennett, chairman of the Student Sustainability Committee in the university's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

"I am really excited about it," he said. "It's been kind of a long process to put the grant together, apply for the funds, and coordinate with the different divisions up at the University of Utah, so it is really exciting to see it all kind of coming together."

Bennett, a graduate teaching assistant, said he's very proud of the work his students have accomplished so far.

"It's just one small part of the campus, but when you think about 100,000 gallons … that’s a lot of water," he said. "If this is something that can be replicated in other places … it can really add up, and we can cut down on the amount of water we’re using."

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MirandaCollette