All sports facilities and organisations have a role in conserving water, and grounds staff can help reduce the pressure on resources while also providing good playing surfaces by adapting pitch maintenance routines.
Good club and facility management is essential at all times, and during spells of water shortages and drought everyone should be involved – the committee and management teams – not just grounds staff. Co-ordinating fixtures, facility availability and pitch rotation are all key tasks, and it is important to educate members and users with appropriate on signs and via newsletters, websites and social media. Tough decisions on surface safety, fixture cancellation and renovation and construction projects may also be needed, and such tough decisions have a better chance of being understood if there is clear communication with members, users and stakeholders.
HINDSIGHT IS WONDERFUL
In drought areas it is particularly important to use water as efficiently as possible and to minimise waste, as this will help reduce the impact of drought on the environment and are introduced. The following steps can help reduce water consumption:
- Encourage deeper plant roots by removing compaction – it may be too hard to do this now, so wait until autumn when it has rained and the ground is softer. It may not help this time, but it will make your ground more resilient when the next drought comes
- Increase mowing height
- Reduce mowing frequency
- Return clippings if possible without impacting quality
- Manage wear by calling off unnecessary games or practice sessions
- Service irrigation equipment to make sure it is working properly
- Apply water using efficient equipment
- Never leave a static, hose‐fed sprinkler system unattended
- Apply water to grounds in larger amounts on fewer occasions
- Only apply the amount of water needed
- Do not allow water to pond or run‐off
- Never irrigate during the heat of the day
- Look for signs of water repellency and treat with a suitable wetting agent
- Limit evapotranspiration
- Consider only watering the minimum number of pitches possible and let less sensitive areas drought out
- Consider water-retaining amendments.
WHAT ABOUT DURING A BAN?
When water restrictions are in place, note the above advice on how to limit water demand. Take care though not use aerationor decompaction equipment – significant surface damage and increased rates of drying will occur. In addition, the following will help:
- Limit wear
- Avoid applications of fertiliser and pesticide
- Limit machinery use to essential maintenance
- Accept that the grass will brown
- Monitor pitch safety regularly and cancel fixtures where appropriate
- Make the most of any rainfall that does occur - capture rainfall from roof surfaces
- Use covers to reduce drying rates
- Look for alternative sources of water (you may be able to take limited amounts from adjacent rivers if the EA permit it)
- Look to see if your sports ground can get an exemption.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE DROUGHT ENDS
It should be possible to start renovations as soon as drought conditions are lifted. Look to re establish grass, if temperatures allow, by seeding, and consider seeding with more drought-resistant varieties and species if possible and appropriate.
Help infiltration by loosening capped and compacted soils; wetting agents can help water repellency (hydrophobicity) that can occur in some soils, particularly sandy and thatch soils.
Review how you have managed the drought and problems with water supply, and look at what you can do differently in the short and medium term to help maintain your facility to the highest possible standards.
For more information visit www.sportengland.org