The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is backing an effort to conserve water at one of its elementary schools as severe drought conditions persist across California.

The district has received $621,256 in state grant money to support a new stormwater capture system at Will Rogers Learning Community.

At its meeting Wednesday night, the Board of Education is expected to adopt a resolution that will formalize a project agreement between the school district and the state’s Water Resources Control Board.

The local district’s grant is part of a $30-million allocation to school districts across the state through the Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS).

“With a fourth year of record-setting drought, programs such as DROPS play an important role in educating our young folks about the different ways we can conserve water, especially with our current drought conditions,” state water board vice chair Frances Spivy-Weber said in a release. “Students will get to see first hand how stormwater capture systems work right on their campuses. They’ll also be taught the importance of conservation and how they can be good stewards of one of our most precious resources.”

The project must be completed by 2019 and the total cost is estimated at about $834,000. The district will cover the difference between that sum and the grant (about $213,000), and the Will Rogers PTA, Heal the Bay and the City of Santa Monica are also supporting the project, according to a district report.

An area of Will Rogers that tends to get flooded in rainstorms will be completely redesigned with sustainability in mind. The project will bolster the school’s water supply and reduce wasted runoff through cisterns, rain barrels, bioswales, expanded tree wells, permeable pavement and subterranean basins.

An asphalt parking lot will also be resurfaced as part of the project, according to the district report.

Will Rogers will satisfy the grant project’s mandatory educational component with a garden and display area through which harvested water will flow.

Students will be encouraged to share their knowledge with families to create “water-wise households,” Spivy-Weber said.

“As we continue to deal with the current drought and the growing effects of climate change, educating our youth about conservation now is a high priority,” she said.

DROPS was developed in response to Governor Jerry Brown’s 2014 declaration of a state of emergency due to severe drought conditions, according to a press release. Applications were accepted through Jan. 15, and grantees were announced in May.

The grants are funded through unallocated money from Propositions 13, 40 and 50.

Meanwhile, SMMUSD is taking other steps to conserve water. The district is planting drought-tolerant plants, watering less frequently and replacing leaky and automatic faucets. Rain barrels will also be implemented.

To report concerns about watering on SMMUSD campuses, email


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