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