Going native with plants: A new-old direction for water conservation
Different species of native plants can help communities tackle issues with too much or too little water.
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While native plants help Kansas City residents deal with too much water, native species in New Mexico help conserve it. Intel, one of the world's largest makers of semiconductor chips, invested $1 million to add drought-tolerant plants to 50 acres at its Rio Rancho facility.Skip to next paragraph
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By xeriscaping the entire east slope of the factory grounds with more than 2,000 native trees and shrubs, Intel significantly reduced its need for irrigation water. Because the landscaping project includes a path almost a mile long that connects the Rio Rancho, Corrales, and Skyview communities, the residents of those neighborhoods provided input into the design.
"Part of being a good corporate citizen is looking for opportunities to improve water efficiency in every aspect of our operations, from making the ultrapure water for the manufacturing process to using water in the landscape," says Dave Stangis, director of corporate relations.
In addition to the xeriscape project, Intel is improving its water efficiency by reducing the amount of water used during production and by reusing and recycling that water.
"Intel invested $20 million to make the process of turning tap water into ultrapure water more efficient," says Mr. Stangis. He adds that the company has saved 3 billion gallons of water over the past eight years by reusing and recycling the ultrapure water instead of using fresh water for its operations.
Meanwhile, at the Highlands Center for Natural History in Prescott, Ariz., native plants are helping to educate the next generation of scientists, conservationists, and architects. The center (www.highlandscenter.org) is committed to helping children and adults become wise caretakers of the land.
Conservation concepts are woven into every program at the Lynx Creek Site, an 80-acre classroom without walls that it operates in the Prescott National Forest. Executive director Nichole Trushell has modeled the center's learning philosophy on her own experience. She says roaming in the woods inspired her to become a botanist.
In addition to the outdoor experiential learning, the campus itself is a model for ecofriendly green building concepts and conservation. A new learning center generates the electricity it needs by using solar panels and a battery backup system. The center's butterfly roof has its low point in the center to direct rainwater at two points toward native plantings.
A maintenance building sheds rainwater into collection tanks, which is then used to enhance constructed wetlands that treat the center's waste water.
In the future, the center will plant an arboretum to showcase the native plants it offers during its biannual public plant sales. The arboretum will also serve as a living demonstration of how native plants help conserve water in the landscape.
Whether saving irrigation water, improving water quality, or teaching lessons in conservation, native plants are doing their part to help the environment, just as nature originally intended.