In “Conserving in California,” consultant Patrick Crais says many of the sports turf managers he has worked with are not just looking for guidance on how to conserve water on their fields, but on nearby landscaping as well.

Many times, it’s not just the sports turf manager trying to conserve water.  Overseeing organizations such as towns, schools or colleges  may set a blanket goal of saving a percentage of water.

For sports turf managers who have found themselves in that far-from-perfect yet common situation,  Crais recommends the following steps:

Step 1: Contact your water agency or city for a free water audit. They have an interest in helping their customers conserve water. “They will come in to do a survey,” he explains; this usually will be provided for large water customers. Also, ask for a report of your water history for the property.

Step 2: Locate the actual water meters on which the bills are based. “A lot of people don’t know where their water meters are,” says Crais. “You need to find out if they are mixed-use meters or dedicated irrigation meters.”

Step 3: Establish exactly how much plant material there is on the property. “That means the square footage of turf, and the square footage of shrubs. You need to do that in order to calculate an amount of water that’s needed to keep those things alive; there’s a little bit of science involved there, but it’s not rocket science,” he explains. “Only after you do that can you create a water budget for the property. And then you can start to prioritize: If you need to cut water use by 25 percent, you can do it by, say, taking out certain areas of shrubs, or stopping irrigation on a few other areas. Or you’ll know, for example, that you can preserve two soccer fields but that the practice field has to go.”

Read more about the extreme drought in California.