Garden Festival considers drought solutions

Stephen Gilson Jr.
Staff Writer 

The California Botanic Garden in Claremont hosted the “Waterwise Community Festival” Sunday to spread awareness about the issues of climate change and water conservation, and the particular challenges the state faces in light of a historic drought. 

At the entrance to the garden, a runoff table was set up to show how leftover chemicals from fertilizers run off into the Los Angeles River that connects to the Pacific Ocean. 

“It is an educational tool used mostly by kids,” said Danette Bouzanquet, river education and outreach coordinator at the non-profit Friends of the Los Angeles River. “There are three soft bottom areas. These are the only areas where water is able to penetrate the ground, and that is a good thing because that goes into our groundwater supply.” 

Next to the runoff table, was a “Los Angeles River Rover” vehicle, where guests were able to go inside to learn about the animals that occupy the areas near the Los Angeles River. More importantly, there was an example of how trash can eventually end up in the river. Trash along with chemicals like potassium and phosphorus from farm fertilizer can infiltrate the groundwater supply, and potentially contaminate drinking water. 

The event also had California native plants on sale, such as California buckwheat, white and black sage, California native oaks and California lilacs, all of which can be grown easily in the local climate. 

“People should be buying California native plants,” said Mariana Ramirez-Rodriguez, Botanic Garden nursery manager, said. “We’re in … a pretty bad drought. Native plants also help bring back the natural ecosystem.” 

These  native plants are drought tolerant and they also promote plant biodiversity, which helps slow the erosion process and supports native animals. 

The festival also displayed irrigation systems, which use less water. 

The California Botanic Garden is home to numerous native shrubs and trees, most notably the Joshua Tree and the California Palm Tree. 

“It is incredibly important that we try and conserve water just based on the state of our water supplies right now,” said Ashlee Armstrong, assistant director of horticulture for the Garden. “We are in the middle of a 1,200-year drought, and one change I would recommend is for people to get rid of their lawns because they use a lot of water for little benefit.”

While water conservation and practicing ecological responsibility in the face of climate change was the theme, not all of the exhibits were doom and gloom. One stand showcased various fossils found in California, like the sabretooth tiger. Fossils are fascinating to look at, and they are also an important tool in studying the climate crisis.

“The fossils are important because we can use them to study natural cycles of climate change,” said Gabriel Santos, exhibitor from the local Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. “By understanding those natural cycles, we can better understand how we impact climate change today. There is a lot of evidence showing us that what is happening today is not natural; it is because of humans.”

Stephen Gilson Jr. can be reached at

Stephen Gilson Jr. is a sophomore journalism major with a concentration in broadcast journalism. He played baseball and football in high school and is an avid sports enthusiast.

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