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The AD waterfall: far more than a water feature

Before and after
Before and after. Photos by Tom Trindl.

The new waterfall outside of the Administration Building, while decorative, is actually a functional and vital campus utility. You wouldn't know looking at the water feature and surrounding area that it covers more than 1,000 feet of pipes - a complex system that combines AD roof drainage, irrigation systems, and conservation efforts.

The AD building, the administrative hub of Green River's campus, hadn't been updated for decades. Tree roots encumbered the drainage pipes from the roof, flooding the base of the building during heavy downpours; the cement in front of the building was cracking and old. Washington state finally budgeted deficiency money to the college for these long-overdue repairs.

When he approached the budget, Interim Director of Facilities Rob Olson had two options: Subcontract the work out, or keep it in-house. "I knew that if I did this in-house and utilized the workforce we already had, we would have a lot more flexibility with the money," Olson explained. "I knew this was the time to do something big, and I drew inspiration from the waterfall in the logo on my business card."

Cleverly designed, the AD roof now drains into a 1,200 gallon holding tank which pumps the water up through the waterfall. The holding tank also feeds into an irrigation system which will (for the first time ever) allow for actual landscaping around the AD building. All the excess drainage water, now aerated from the waterfall, feeds into the Green River where it helps the salmon and overall ecosystem.

Ed Bloch and Tom Trindl of facilities, assisted by hourly part-timer Rich Smith, started building the waterfall in December and completed it almost exactly on schedule.

AD waterfall
The waterfall serves a triad of functions.

Although newly erected, the waterfall is deliberately designed around repurposed natural elements gathered from around campus. The waterfall flows from granite rocks hand-picked by Bloch from outside the old BI building, left over from the original construction. Many of the plants were salvaged from the picnic area and other areas of campus, where they would have otherwise died. Ferns and moss were transplanted from the woods.

The waterfall was designed with the facility master plan in mind; it faces the AD building because Matthews Way will be a noisy intersection in a few years. The direction of the waterfall - protected by the trees on one side and the AD building on the other - makes it feel like a sanctuary rather than a decoration.

The walk up to the fall is handicap accessible and has a turnaround spot for wheelchairs; the Green River Community College Foundation donated picnic tables, which will be wheelchair-friendly as well.