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Soil and Water Sites
on Cal Poly Land
Site 8 Site 2 Site 7 Site 1
Site 4 Site 4 Site 5 Site 6 Site 3
Site 8 Site 8 Site 8 Site 8 Site 8 Site 8 Site 8 Site 1 Site 8 Site 2 Site 7 Site 4 Site 4 Site 5 Site 6 Site 3

Cal Poly's Water Resources

Water History

Land and water are the two essential components required for the development of a vibrant ecological system. The history of mankind revolves around the exploitation of the two in order to achieve great deeds, build major cities, and provide for the food, fiber, and shelter needs of citizens. The story of water on campus is one of planned development and wise use.

From the earliest of times San Luis, Chorro, Stenner, and Brizziolari Creeks provided water to meet the needs of a small population of original Americans in the area. As San Luis Obispo became settled by Europeans, they brought with them the technology to build small dams on each of the creeks and systems for distributing the water as needed for producing food, fiber and feed for livestock. All of the most recent check dams have since been removed by the Department of Fish and Game as subsequent generations developed the Whale Rock Dam in 1957-58 and Santa Margarita Lake in 1942. Santa Margarita Lake was designed and constructed during a nine-month period to furnish water to Camp San Luis. The water from the lake was never used for that purpose however. Whale Rock was developed as a joint project by the City of San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly, and the Men's Colony.

Water Sources

The 24-inch pipelines from both lakes converge at the Water Filtration Plant in Stenner Canyon. Here water is treated and then distributed to the campus and city. Gary Ketchum, the Campus Farm Manager, has further developed a unique system to use water for irrigation on Polyland. Water from the pipelines is first fed into Middlecamp reservoir (named in honor of former Farm Manager, Lionel Middlecamp). The overflow of water from Middlecamp is fed into Nelson Reservoir (on the Cheda Ranch) for farm distribution and for ground water recharge. In addition runoff water from upper Stenner and brizziolari Creeks recharges the groundwater near the Crops Unit and the Citrus Orchards. Wells at Field 25 and in the lemon orchard tap into these water sources to help sustain the farming operations. In addition water is pumped from Middlecamp Reservoir to the Indonesian Reservoir for redistribution. The Indonesian Reservoir was built in the mid 1960's by a group of agriculture students from Indonesia. This reservoir is connected to Shepard Reservoir, which in turn is connected to Smith Reservoir, both of which were named in honor of former agriculture Deans Vard Shepard and Warren Smith. Drumm Reservoir, near Herdsman Hall, has been redesigned and converted to a state of the art Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC) facility by Dr. Charles Burt. It is named in honor of George Drumm, Dairy Department Head, 1953.

Recycled Water

Three additional water catchments are located on campus. They are used to recycle wastewater from the Dairy and Swine units. One of the Dairy ponds is used to recover recyclable methane from the dairy wastewater. In addition excess water from the wastewater ponds is pumped to giant water cannons for distribution onto campus pasturelands. By applying the water to the soil, nutrients, pathogens and sediments are removed and the groundwater recharged.

The growth of Cal Poly has resulted in a loss of water for the campus farming operations. Originally the farm was allocated 1200 acre-feet of water from Whalerock. As the campus student population grew that allocation was cut to 600 acre-feet. At present the water allocation for farming operations is only 459 acre-feet. To sustain the campus instructional ecosystem, we will soon face two major challenges, 1. either develop additional water supplies or 2. become more creative with how we use the resources available.