One of the sports turf manager’s most important roles is that of an environmental steward.

What exactly does that mean?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.”

Sports turf managers certainly affect the environment. Of course there’s the overall responsibilities of providing safe, playable and aesthetically pleasing fields. These charges will always be part of the job. But the environmental — and sustainable — aspect of the profession is of utmost importance to the current and future generations of our planet.


Part of environmental stewardship is water conversation. Whether your operations tries to save as much water as possible or not can depend on your locale. For example, some parts of the U.S. are under water restrictions. Also, in certain situations, climate can dictate where water conservation falls on a field manager’s priority list.

From my experiences in talking to you, the role of environmental steward is one that most, if not all, in the industry are proud to take on.

So how does water conservation play into this?

For starters, 71 percent of the Earth is covered in water. Broken down even further, 97 percent of this water is saltwater (not for drinking). That means that 3 percent is freshwater, and of that percentage, only 1 percent is available for drinking (the other 2 percent of the available freshwater sources is locked in ice caps and glaciers). With growing population rates and such a small percentage of all the water on Earth available for consumption, it only makes logical sense that we must preserve and conserve this precious resource.

SFM 2017 Survey

Are you trying to conserve water at your operation or facility?

  • 45% – Yes, I’m trying to save as much water as possible
  • 41% – Somewhat, I’m trying to cut back
  • 14% – No, we’re watering away

In other words, water conservation means using this limited water supply wisely and caring for it properly. Since we depend on water to sustain life, it’s our responsibility to learn more about water conservation and how we can help keep our sources pure and safe for generations to come.

Sports turf managers are in an excellent position to help in these efforts. Cultural practices reduce water needs, which comes down to responsible stewardship. On athletic fields, we know that frequent aeration and topdressing improve water infiltration and percolation. Also, granular fertilization allows targeted applications, with a move toward organics extending the intervals.


Water conservation requires planning and effort, but every little bit helps. So don’t think that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. Water conservation also can’t be something we just think of occasionally. It needs to permeate our daily habits, thoughts and routines. This applies to your facility operations.

As part of As part of SFM’s 2017 State of the Industry Survey, we asked about water conservation.

As you can see above, 86 percent of our survey respondents are conserving water in some form or fashion.


July is Smart Irrigation Month, hosted by the Irrigation Association (IA). “Smart Irrigation Month is an Irrigation Association initiative to increase awareness of the value of water use… and grow demand for water-saving products, practices and services.”

Resources are available to help you maximize the efficiency of your irrigation practices. Here are a few tips to help you get started, from our sister publication Superintendent magazine:

  • Take seminars on water management to improve your knowledge. Take classes to become a Certified Irrigation Auditor.
  • Consider an irrigation audit, conducted by a third party.
  • Don’t let the sticker shock on the price of a new irrigation system or upgrade prohibit you from investing. You might find the investment makes good sense.
  • Know your field/facility, especially areas that need less water than others.
  • Embrace available irrigation technology, from surfactants to soil moisture sensors and probes.