If you have a lawn in your backyard, you know that maintaining a perfectly uniform and green field of grass is incredibly hard. If you don’t water your lawn enough, the grass dies, but extra water is costly, both for your wallet and for the environment. That’s one thing I find so fantastical about professional sports fields like baseball and football: their turf is superbly manicured, but what was sacrificed for that picture-perfect grass?

San Diego is home to the Padres baseball team, who play at Petco Park located in downtown San Diego. Petco Park is one of 25 parks out of the 30 baseball teams in the MLB that use real grass as opposed to artificial turf. Each baseball field has approximately 120,000 square feet of grass (1). To give some perspective, the average backyard of a house in the US is roughly 10,000 square feet, meaning that the amount of water needed to water one baseball field is equivalent to the amount of water needed to water 12 backyards (2). That’s around 75,000 gallons of water for one field at one time. In addition to that, they sometimes have several games a week at the stadium, and the field is watered before every single game, which could mean watering it five times in one week!

While people at home have cut down on water use during the drought in California, Petco Parks and other baseball fields have not lowered the amount of water they are using on their turf. Although it is important for these professional teams to have good fields to play on, does it justify Petco Park and the other four baseball fields in California using all those gallons of water on the field while the state is battling a severe drought? Worse, Petco Park uses drinking water to irrigate their turf since the field is located downtown and is too far away from any recycled water distribution pipeline (3). All that water that has gone through the process of being filtered and purified is being poured back into the ground when recycled or grey water would more than suffice. Especially in Southern California, an already desert-like area fighting a severe drought, drinking water is very valuable and needs to be conserved.

So what could we possibly do to solve this problem of wasted water in Petco Park? One answer is one that some other teams have taken: artificial turf. It will be just as suitable as real grass, and you won’t get grass stains either! More importantly, it doesn’t need any water, so those gallons and gallons of water used to irrigate the field can be put to other use instead. Another solution is to use recycled water instead of drinking water; a new recycled water pipeline can be built closer to downtown San Diego to be used by Petco Park. The water could also come from all the residents and shops downtown whose water might have otherwise gone towards polluting the ocean. Both of these ideas may be expensive in the short run, but it is worth the cost in the long run for helping to limit the amount of water wasted and to lessen the severity of the drought and the environment as a whole while still maintaining a nice green.

One final suggestion would be to simply cut down on the amount of water used by Petco Park. The grass may not be as vibrant a shade of green, but at the end of the day, having clean water to drink is more important than a pretty field.




Cover photo: VAVi Sport and Social Club

Day Zero–the term coined for the date when a city runs out of water. All taps connected to homes and businesses are shut off. Each citizen is limited to a maximum of 25 liters of water per day produced by public water pumps around the city–a far cry from the 300 liters the average person normally uses. Showers, flushable toilets, sinks, washing machines, and gardens are a distant luxury.1 It’s a terrifying thought.

Along the coast of South Africa, Cape Town, a port city home to some five million residents2, has already faced the daunting and very real possibility of a Day Zero. Over half of Cape Town’s water comes from Theewaterskloof Dam, an enormous lake that can hold nearly 500 million cubic meters of water at full capacity. The city’s Department of Water and Sanitation bases all of its restrictions on the amount of water in the dam.

Up until 2014, the dam stayed at a reasonably safe level of 71.9% capacity, but three continuous years of drought caused by the El Niño weather pattern led to a rapid 25% decline in water capacity by 2015. In January of 2016, Level 2 water restrictions were put in place. Gardens and park areas could now only be watered for one hour a day. Capetonians weren’t too concerned about this new development–the constant dry desert climate of South Africa meant that they were always living under Level 1 restrictions.

However, not 10 months later, the Department of Water and Sanitation announced that the situation was now rising into Level 3 restrictions. In June of 2017, the drought was officially declared the worst to occur in over a century, with restrictions now raised to Level 4. Capetonians were strongly encouraged to keep their water usage to 100 liters a day while fountains, water parks, and more were shut down. Even with the continued regulations, the situation only got worse and worse. Theewaterskloof Dam reached a paltry 15% water depth.

At the beginning of 2018, the government declared that Level 6 restrictions would be implemented and Day Zero would occur when the water levels of the dam dropped beneath 13.5%. If Cape Town continued on its downward trend, citizens would have to cut down their working hours to get water from 1 of 149 water pumps located around the city.

It seemed that Day Zero was inevitable. Scientists gave an estimated timeframe of 6 months before it occurred.

Then, a miracle happened. The restrictions, now down to 50 liters a day, began to have an effect. On March 12, 2018, the city only consumed 511 million liters of water, an astonishing achievement given that it used to drain over 1.2 billion liters on an average day. Slowly but surely, the water level stopped dropping. Heavy rainfall during the winter and strong enforcement of the restrictions aided the ascent back to normality. It’s now 2021, and water levels are back at 75%. Potable water is always going to be a struggle for drought-stricken areas like South Africa, but Capetonians have learned to appreciate water as a precious resource and not something to be wasted.

Soon, many other cities will face their Day Zeroes, and not all of them will be able to avert their crises. As water scarcity becomes more prevalent, it’s vital to ask why exactly Cape Town skirted so close to catastrophe before rising back to safety.

The biggest factor is the city’s shocking lack of water filtration infrastructure. Despite being situated right next to the coast, Cape Town only began planning its first desalination plant in 2018 as a reaction to the drought. Regardless of climate and location, regions around the world need to start implementing sustainable solutions to water scarcity. We should adopt the Capetonian mindset that water is a highly limited resource and must be protected at all costs. In the end, the only way to prevent another Day Zero water crisis is to stop it before it even starts–and the only way to stop it is to take action now.




Updated: Jul 20, 2021

By Kyle Tianshi, Grade 10

The San Bernardino National Forest is one of nature’s finest miracles–a lustrous unpolluted sky over 800,000 acres of pine forests, soaring peaks, and cascading waterfalls. Amid the picturesque landscape, a seemingly innocuous metal tube runs down the slope of a mountain. The standard hiker might stumble upon a portion of the pipe and pay it no heed, but most don’t realize that it connects an aquifer of natural water to a factory owned by Nestle, one of the world’s leading bottled water manufacturers.

Nestle withdraws 60 million gallons of water from the aquifer every year. Despite claiming they constantly monitor the environmental conditions of the spring and only collect water that naturally comes to the surface, their actions have undoubtedly impacted the forest negatively. Residents noticed a significant decrease in the water level of streams, sometimes reporting that rivers were running completely dry for periods of time. As news spread and protests arose about the company’s extravagant water usage, people began uncovering the true nature of the operation. Nestle must pay a small fee of several hundred dollars per year for a license from the United States Forest Service to gain access to the water. It sounds simple enough, but people were shocked to find that Nestle was operating under an expired permit from 1988.

By 2017, the petitions against Nestle had reached their peak. People were rightly perturbed that a foreign company was somehow allowed to drain millions of gallons of water while the rest of California did all they could to conserve during the decade-long drought. A petition called the Courage Campaign amassed over 140,000 signatures within a few months–and each name under the movement meant an email to Nestle and the California Water Resources Control Board. Whether it was to reduce the staggering number of emails storming their inbox or to get to the bottom of the situation, the state finally began examining Nestle’s operations.

The investigation found that Nestle might only be entitled to 2.3 million gallons of water, a far cry from the 58 million they took that year. The California Water Resources Control Board offered to renew Nestle’s permit for three more years, giving them the ability to continue the operation as long as there was sufficient water in the spring. The decision was backed by the argument that they needed more time to do the proper studies and accurately assess the situation. Though many were unhappy that Nestle could continue the operation, if only temporarily, there was nothing that they could do except sit back and wait.

On April 23, 2021, the California Water Board released a draft cease and desist order, informing Nestle Waters that they must stop all unlawful diversion of water and limit themselves to over 25 times less water than they were originally taking. The announcement came as a huge relief to many Californians and is an enormous step in the right direction.

The war, however, is far from over. As of today, Nestle is still fighting against the Water Board, and the state is finding it difficult to take down a multi-billion dollar company. This is where we should step in. One of the biggest reasons why the cease and desist draft came to fruition in the first place was the overwhelming public outcry from citizens all across America. Sign petitions. Voice your concerns. Generate awareness. And most importantly, the next time you take a sip from a plastic water bottle, think about where it came from.,than%20fishes%20in%20the%20sea.,depend%20on%20regular%20surface%20flows.,000%20diarrhoeal%20deaths%20each%20year.

Cover photo from: Urban Milwaukee