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Southern Oregon University

Southern Oregon University Landscape:

FAQ about Southern Oregon University Irrigation:

Q. Why dose SOU irrigate during the day (hottest time, least efficient due to evaporation)?

A. The SOU irrigation System was designed and originally installed to be a quick coupler manually operated overhead sprinkler system (extremely high volume and pressure). In the 1960s (when the system was installed) Southern Oregon was less concerned with high irrigation water use and for the most part water was plentiful and agriculture was predominate. In the 1960-1970s SOU averaged around 175 Acre Feet of Irrigation water use each year (57,000,000 gallons). SOU's irrigation system is feed from Talent Irrigation Ditch on gravity pressure (at the ball fields on Iowa our average pressure is 150 PSI). The SOU's ageing irrigation system requires constant repairs and if we don't have water flowing through the lines 24 hours a day the pressure builds up and the pipes break apart. With the sheer number of irrigation zones on campus if we ran water only at night we could cover 5-10% of campus. 

Q. Why are there broken sprinklers on campus all the time? 

A. Sprinklers last commercially on average 10 years before needing to be replaced due to cracks in the bodies, blown nozzles, failing gaskets and striped gears. Vandalism, mower damage, and vehicle traffic break dozens more. SOU has roughly 10,000 sprinklers on campus covering 140 acres of landscape. A good yearly estimate of broken sprinklers is 1-3% which equals 100-300 broken sprinklers each year on campus. SOU landscape staff are here from 6:00 am to 4:00pm Monday-Friday; if a sprinkler runs at a time when we are not around it becomes difficult to find without passerby's letting us know. We keep a running list of sprinkler breaks and prioritize them by location and amount of water loss. Every day we have a full time irrigation technician working to repair sprinklers. Please let us know if you see breaks so that we can make sure to get them fixed.

Q. Why does SOU have so many green lawns?

A. SOU Landscape staff are working each year to reduce the number of lawns on campus; it is a slow and costly process. Studies show that visual first impressions of a University Campus weigh strongly on prospective students decisions of where they will attend college. Southern Oregon is known to be a beautiful, green, heavily forested area where outdoor activities are abundant and many lakes and rivers are close by. We are working hard to educate our students and the public to change perceptions of what a healthy, sustainable, and native landscape can look like. This changing of perceptions and the actual landscape will take time, but we are working with this goal in mind.

Q We are in a drought and SOU doesn’t appear to be making any changes, why?

When droughts hit and cause a shortage of water, the first place to save water is on landscapes. The City of Ashland is primarily concerned with the use of city water (they use the terms domestic or treated) being used on residential and commercial landscapes. SOU uses untreated water from the Talent Irrigation District (TID) canal to irrigate the campus. Last year (2014) SOU voluntarily reduced irrigation water consumption by over 20% from previous years. This year (2015) our goal is to reduce our usage even farther.    

This picture is an example of an irrigation repair the Landscape Crew made June 2015

The break was in the middle of the concrete slab that measured 44 feet across.

Irrigation repairs

Interesting Irrigation Facts:

SOU receives water from Emmigrant Lake via the Talent Irrigation District through the City of Ashland.


  • SOU irrigates over 6,000,000 square feet
  • There are over 460 separate irrigation zones on campus, each with its own automatic valve
  • There are over 10,000 sprinkler heads on campus
  • There are miles of underground irrigation pipes on campus, some dating from early 1950


SOU’s commitment to sustainability:

In 2013 SOU administration decided to make a large financial and physical investment into the future sustainability of the campus irrigation system. The landscaping department undertook the most fundamental irrigation upgrade in SOU’s history. The Landscape Services Department with support from the SOU Information Technologies Department and the SOU Building Maintenance Department Electricians were able to disassemble and install all new Baseline Irrigation Solutions controllers and Smart Hydro-meter Flow valves.

 We now have the ability to monitor live water flow throughout campus, and install 50 Smart Moisture Sensors below ground spread out over campus. This will give us a graphical representation of the soil moisture levels throughout the different micro-climates on campus. Our Baseline Irrigation Solutions system has the ability to automatically adjust run times via Moisture Sensors on individual zones to ensure that the appropriate amount of water is being delivered to each area. This will help reduce the amount of run-off water on sidewalks, parking lots, and roads.

 Our Hydro-meter Flow Valves automatically sense breaks in the lines, send E-mails and Text messages and shut down the lines until the repairs have been made. The Smart Valves also record graphical flow data and monitor usage in GPM (gallons per minute).

 The 2014 North Campus Village landscape designed by local Landscape Architect Greg Covey, will meet LEED Environmental Design qualifications. It was designed with the latest technology in water saving irrigation and utilizes Baseline Irrigation Solutions system. The Irrigation system coupled with drought tolerant plants and a large number of trees make it very sustainable.

 Our goal for 2014 is to improve upon our campus irrigation filtration system. We look forward to being able to utilize the same water smart sprinkler heads that were used at the North Campus Village. We also plan on installing the 50 Moisture sensors throughout campus this fall and winter season. 

Watering is monitored by Landscape Services staff between 7:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., and is controlled by the Baseline Irrigation Solutions System at all times. Please report immediately any malfunctioning or misdirected irrigation equipment to 541-552-6117, or submit a WORK REQUEST. On weekends, please contact Campus Public Safety (541-552-6911) to obtain FMP emergency numbers.

Check out what the Landscape Team is doing to promote Sustainability at SOU:

SOU has become a certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation:

Keep your eyes peeled for the new signs around campus.

We are committed to providing the four basic elements for wildlife to thrive on campus, and although we don't always apreciate the deer munching all of our plants we accept that this is their home. There are also many other types of wildlife on campus that we wish to support including squirrels, rodents, birds, pollinators, insects, and mammals. We have recently also begun an effort to provide the esential elements for fungus to thrive on campus. We have dug out and half planted several large logs by Cox Hall that will be perfect for polypore fungi growth. 


This year SOU was accrediated with the Arbor Day Foundations award Tree Campus USA for our work to promote the urban forest and help educate people to the value of trees. 
Crew 2015

SOU's Silver Maple tree in the courtyard between Shasta and McLoughlin won the City of Ashland's Tree of the Year award for 2014.

Tree of the year

SOU Landscape has pledged with the Friends of the Earth Campaign to not use neonicotinoides on campus in an effort to help protect bees and other pollinators on campus. 


SOU has been awarded the first in the Nation title Bee Campus USA 2015

 Pollinator Gardens


Southern Oregon University is settled in the foothills of the Siskiyou mountain range. The climate is amazing, with all four distinct seasons. “Glorious surroundings provide inspiration beyond the classroom, one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in the world—snow-capped mountains, wilderness areas, whitewater rivers—surrounding a lively arts community that’s among the most desirable places to live in America.”© 2012 Southern Oregon University. The Landscape Services Department employees are stewards of SOU’s diverse landscape and exemplify the college’s commitment towards sustainability. We see ourselves building on our interactive relationship with the student body and campus as a whole to fulfill the college’s vision of supporting an interdisciplinary learning environment.


We are a team of Landscape professional who strive to make Southern Oregon University a great place to live, learn, and work. Our focus is on students and making their outdoor experience at SOU a positive one. We are constantly working at improving our sustainability and environmental impact.  Our goal is to make SOU a destination campus, and continue to foster a positive environment where students are encouraged to learn and succeed. Always expanding, diversifying and revitalizing our Landscapes to accommodate the ever changing demands of our customers is our commitment to SOU.


Our team works hard, shows up (rain, snow, and shine), and works until the job is done. We are optimistic, positive, and helpful.


Please make requests for any temporary or permanent alterations to the landscape by submitting a WORK REQUEST to FMP.  All alterations must be approved and coordinated by the Landscape Services Supervisor and the Director of FMP.

Regular maintenance includes mowing, pruning, weeding, watering, fertilizing lawns, trees, and flower beds, outdoor leaf and trash pickup, and all other functions related to exterior campus beautification. The Landscape Services Department also provides support of outdoor projects for the Building Maintenance Division and capital repair or construction projects, such as heavy equipment operation and trenching.

Projects such as outdoor art exhibits, lining the sports fields for athletic events, memorial tree planting, or group activities using the campus grounds must be approved by the Landscape Services Supervisor, The Director of  FMP, and the Vice President for Finance and Administration. Departments please submit a WORK REQUEST to request FMP support.


Landscape Services only uses approved pesticides and herbicides, which are applied by State-licensed applicators. If you have any questions about a chemical being applied, please contact the Landscape Services Supervisor at 541-552-6117. Each applicator carries a Material Safety Data Sheet on the chemical being used. See SOU IPM Policy

Snow and ice removal are the responsibility of the Landscape Services Division. Maintenance of campus streets and walkways are also the responsibility of Landscape Services. See Snow and Ice Procedures

Whenever possible, honeybee swarms are relocated by our local bee keeper The Bee Girl. The Bee Girl also helps educate the campus to the benefits of Bees. For more information about bees on campus and elswhere visit

Please contact the Landscape Services Division at 541-552-6117, or via WORK REQUEST to notify us of your event. This will ensure that your guests are not "surprised" by water sprinklers suddenly coming on during your event. Please notify us well in advance so that timers may be reprogrammed in a timely manner.

Who we are:

Mike Oxendine;  Landscape Services Supervisor


Mike has called Oregon home since 1985 and loves being a part of the Rogue Valley.  He is a professional certified ISA arborist and licensed Oregon landscape professional. He also serves on the City of Ashland Tree Commission. Mike has a Accociates of Science Degree in Business and is a full time SOU student in the Innovation and Leadership program. He will obtain a Bachelors of Science Degree in Innovation and Leadership the summer of 2016. He has worked in the landscape industry since 2001 and loves working outside with plants. He is an avid sports enthusiast and loves backpacking with his wife Erin and his dog Indy. He loves working for SOU and has been at SOU since 2007. He has a lot of vision for the Landscape at the university and looks forward to being a part of a new, sustainable, and exciting future here.  He feels he is member of the best team on campus and really enjoys being around his co-workers.  

He has recently created and chairs SOU’s first Tree Advisory Council which gained national attention in 2015 when SOU receives the distinguished Tree Campus USA title from the Arbor Day Foundation. Mike is focused on making the SOU Campus Landscape the most sustainable in the USA, and in 2015 Mike collaborated with Bee City USA to make SOU the first Bee Campus USA in history. Mike also nominated SOU's Silver Maple tree in the Shasta/McLaughlin courtyard as the City of Ashland's Tree of the Year for 2015, which it won with the help of SOUs tree suporters and their votes. 

Jay Watkins;  Landscape Services Foreman


Jay has worked at SOU since the spring of 1995. He is an expert landscaper, and knows the campus landscape better than any other SOU employee. Jay has mastered all aspects of SOU Landscape Services from heavy equipment operation, ariel lift pruning, large irrigation designs and installations, and IPM management practices. Jay is responsible for training and oversight of the Landscape. When not at work Jay has three wonderful daughters a wife, and a new grandson. He also enjoys gardening at home, scuba diving, and cowboy shooting.

 Tate Dunn;  Landscape Services Irrigation Technician


Tate graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and gained valuable experience working for the Oregon State Parks Department, and local Nurseries. He is our go to person for Irrigation repair and maintenance. Tate is a Licensed International Society of Arboriculture Arborist and is our primary ariel lift pruning specialist. Tate also has his State of Oregon Landscape Contractors Board Professional License. When Tate is not at work he likes to hike, rock climb, garden, ride dirt bikes, and most importantly hang out with his wife.

Kyle Riggs;  Landscape Services Horticulture Specialist


Kyle had his start in horticulture when he was five years old and grew his first Tomato plant from seeds that he had collected. Since then he has studied Environmental Studies and Biology at Sonoma State University in California, worked as a landscaper, worked as the Agricultural Technician at Mendocino College, and as the Manager at historic Hanley Farm in Central Point. Kyle is responsible for our propagation program, landscape bed design, and is our go to Farming expert.  He loves living in Ashland with his wife Nancy and their son Jasper. When not at work Kyle likes canoeing, reading, making, and enjoying beer.

 Samantha Pennington-Vrsek (aka Sam); Sustainability and Landscape Maintenance Specialist





For question or comments please feel free to contact:

Mike Oxendine, Landscape Services Supervisor