By Adrienne Luce, Designing Futures Foundation Executive Director

Dr. Diane Dieckmeyer, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Norco College, dreamed of replacing a massive water guzzling lawn outside the student bookstore with a sustainable teaching garden that could advance and support the college’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Left: Diane Dieckmeyer working in Norco College’s water demonstration garden.

As Diane described in the DFF grant application, “California is known for its endless sunshine and lush vegetation of orange groves, palm trees, and hibiscus. However, this vegetation is not native to Southern California where drought-tolerant plants flourish. Southern California is considered a semiarid region and receives approximately 15 inches of rain annually with the Norco College region receiving only 13 inches annually. The use of non-native plants and expansive green lawns so common in California is a drain to already scarce water resources. One of the most effective ways to conserve water is to replace water-thirsty lawns and non-native plants with native and drought-tolerant plants. For example, replacing a 1000 square foot lawn with native and drought-tolerant plants saves 7700 gallons per month; a water consumption reduction of over 91 percent.”

Diane’s dream became a reality last week, made possible by a grant from the HMC Designing Futures Foundation and an array of funding including the Western Municipal Water District, Paradise Garden Center and the Associated Students of Norco College. With music playing and shovels in hand, the college showed the spirit of collaboration it has become known for, as a team of faculty, staff, students, and community partners worked side by side, to install the myriad of plants that make up Norco College’s new water demonstration garden. As Diane explained, “The garden addresses the need for our community to have opportunities for outdoor learning experiences; to collaborate with a local college, and to have an increased understanding of environmental stewardship. It will support faculty and students by providing an outdoor classroom and encourage students to participate in community service hours by conducting tours and presentations to local K-12 schools and community groups. Finally, it will provide a resource for community members who want to learn more about xeriscape gardening, composting, and irrigation.”

At the end of the day, Diane expressed her excitement about the project saying, “This garden is a living symbol of Norco College’s commitment to community, collaboration, and the environment. It’s a beautiful day to get dirty! ”


Norco President Dr. Paul Parnell does his part to create an environmentally sustainable campus garden.