Watering the Astroturf at UNC

This article in today's N&O explains why UNC has continued to dump untold mega-gallons of water on the synthetic "grass" of its field hockey field (adjacent to the law school, where I work) as our drought has deepened and our reservoirs are drying up. (Have you driven by University Lake recently?)

It makes the playing surface safer for the athletes during games and practices, we're told. Unlike natural turf, synthetic turf is harder to get a grip in when dry.

Why, though, would the better solution not be to shift field hockey to natural-turf fields until the drought is over?

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Total votes: 100

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A interesting point in the article linked above:

Outdoor watering was permitted in Chapel Hill until Thursday night, when the Orange Water and Sewer Authority adopted more restrictive conservation measures. It was not clear whether UNC-CH would be able to water the field hockey turf for a home game Saturday. OWASA, which reports 180 days left in its supply at current use rates, provides special exemptions for safety reasons.

Why, though, would the better solution not be to shift field hockey to natural-turf fields until the drought is over?

Over the life of the field, which would be more energy- and water-efficient?

Grass fields with high traffic seem to need a lot of care to keep them from turning into clay courts here in NC.

in my last bill, the most update info. on our water, is that anyone using 1000 gallons in a single day is banned permanently from owasa's service. . .

If a loophole such as turf "safety" makes it ok to pour our limited drinking water on fake grass, how is that reasonable!?!?!? When those wanting to water non commercial gardens (gardens=sustenance for some) are only allowed to water once a single time per week now! ~ clearly not enough. . . If unc doesnt cancel the games, it desperately is in need of reevaluating some seriously basic survival priority basics. How poorly this situation is reflected on what goes on there. When those very same athletes run out of shower water available on a daily basis, is it only then that unc might begin to self - educate on the subject of conservation? Too late. . .
For someone as powerful as unc, paying a penalty fee at worst may be pocket change. But its also our water. . . Our *drinking* water, at that. (less than 1% of the earth's water is drinking water to begin with)

"OWASA, which reports 180 days left in its supply at current use rates, provides special exemptions for safety reasons"

1) If one wants to live, then it is unsafe to not drink water.

2) If one wants to play field hockey, then it is unsafe to play on a dry astro-turf field.

It seems like Owasa should make a distinction between safety conditions similar to those like (1) and to those like (2).

This may be an indication that UNC needs to have a comprehensive plan for sustainability that includes reviewing every major purchase and design decision for its environmental impact.

Significant sectors of UNC are taking sustainability seriously, but apparently there is a little schizophrenia in the institution.

Speaking as an alum, I think the only natural turf field left is Fetzer Field. Even the intramural/club fields on South and Ridge Roads are artificial turf.

Having played on both kinds of surfaces, I can attest that the artificial is much superior and safer. I had scars on my legs for years from playing on frozen mud, and I played games in the spring where the dust reduced visibility to about 15 feet. It hurts a lot less (and probably reduces injuries) to fall on the fake stuff. And I played rugby, so I fell quite a lot.

They do not, to my knowledge, water the intramural/club fields.

It would be interesting to know whether artificial or natural turf requires more water on average. I honestly don't know.

Significant sectors of UNC are taking sustainability seriously, but apparently there is a little schizophrenia in the institution.

It's a big institution, and sustainability is a process. Progress is definitely being made, but it can be slow. Athletics, in particular, have a lot of other externally-imposed priorities.

With regards to the situation being discussed, I don't have a solution. Trying to mess with an ACC athletics schedule is pretty difficult.

An informational link: looks like the int'l governing body is looking to specify a "waterless turf" but the technology is some years off.

The Future of Synthetic Turf

Uh, oh - this just hit the Drudge Report! "69 Days of Water Left -- and They're Watering Fake Turf for Sports Practice!"

It may be that the artificial turf requires less water than real grass to be playable. And if the water utilized is harvested rainwater or reclaimed wastewater, then the impact is lessened considerably.

However, the design goal for this product should have been to be water-free. And the requirements for purchase by UNC should have been that it be water-free.

What other purchasing decisions at UNC are being made without appropriate consideration for environmental impact?

I agree that the whole thing is ridiculous. International requirements or not, if the whole town runs out of water, we're all up a creek with no paddle, so to speak. The town government has power over an international sporting association-- simply write to them and tell them that the town has a drought and has no water to spare.

Even if they have to cancel the field hockey season, giving citizens access to what they will die without is far more important at this point.

I wonder if people would feel this way if it were the football field. Surely the team not practicing and playing and taking showers, never mind abandoning field maintenance, would really cut down on water use.

Or what if the field watered was used by the women's soccer team? Would there still be a suggestion to cancel the season?

Or think about how much water and electricity it takes to keep the Dean Dome running. Hey, let's cancel basketball season.

I'm gonna guess we wouldn't hear those suggestions.

Joan has a point. Toilet flushes in the Dean Dome, big gushers at the rate of maybe a hundred per minute ...

We know that UNC uses lots of grey water. Maybe there's a pipeline to the athletic facilities.

I think the difference is that we consider putting it on the ground where most of it evaporates to be the lowest possible use for water. Sanitation rates higher, at least for me.

Well- I suppose this fits as well here as anywhere else.

Here's a sobering little map. You can click on the Southeast and enlarge that, then NC itself. Somehow, it only gets more depressing when it's larger.

http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

Cross posted all over.

To the question of watering the fields, the short answer is that Athletics is working with OWASA to align its practices with best water conservation measures in all its operations.

The long answer, and the specifics of why and how the campus uses water, including maintenance and watering of our atheltic fields, is that Athletic operations are part of our innovative stormwater management approaches. To learn more than I can cover here, come to Sustainability Day tomorrow, Friday, October 26 from 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at Graham Memorial Hall, the Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which fronts on Franklin Street and McCorkle Place and is served by almost every transit route.

At 9:00 a.m. Chancellor Moeser will receive the 2007 Campus Sustainabiltiy Report and talk about his interest in moving the campus forward on its path toward sustainabiltiy. At noon, NC State Senator Janet Cowell will speak on high performance building and renewable energy legislation in NC.

Between the speeches, you can meet the campus sustainabitiy staff and visit 11 staffed exhibits. Food and Segway rides will all be avialable during the event.

For more info, see news release http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/oct07/sustanibility102207.html

Linda

Would I say the same thing if it was football? Yes, and no. I believe that, if worse comes to shove, obviously everyone's better off having water than football or any sport. However, football is one of the two major college sports, and it's important to universities, for recruitment of students, to have such things.

Cancellation of the football season may mean decreased enrollment for UNC, less money for area businesses, upset alums -- never a good thing, since alums are the source of millions to the university. I doubt that field hockey cancellation would have the same effect (although it may to a smaller extent). I've played for some of the more "minor" sports in my time as well and I realize that's sad because these athletes work just as hard and probably even harder than the football players, but those are just the facts.

Sorry but I don't think it's more acceptable to make extra demands on an endangered water supply just because football and basketball are more commercially viable (at UNC and Duke, anyway).

As for whether they are "the two major college sports," that's certainly a matter of which college you're talking about. Some colleges manage to survive very well without big-time teams, and some manage without one or the other game entirely.

Congrats to the UNC field hockey team, who just won a national championship after going undefeated all season.

Thank goodness no one cancelled the season! Thank goodness the sexism shown towards women athletes here in this thread didn't prevail.

 

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