Where water conservation is concerned, turfgrass is often cast as the villain. Requiring approximately 33.62 gallons of water per square foot per watering, turf is a water-intensive plant that many water conservation advocates say should be eliminated from our landscapes, at least in arid or drought-stricken areas.

However, others argue that there is a place for turf. Most people prefer turf simply because it represents the aesthetic they are used to. However, it does have some redeeming features that in certain situations can make it a viable solution.

For instance, turf provides a cooling effect on the landscape due to the process of transpiration. This can have important performance and safety implications. A Brigham Young University study of two adjacent football fields illustrates this point. One was planted with natural turf and had an average daily temperature of 78 degrees F, with a daily high of 89 degrees. The other had artificial turf installed. The average daytime temperature of the artificial turf field was 117 degrees, reaching an average daily high of 157 degrees. Little wonder that 69.4 percent of professional football players prefer natural turf. Turfgrass also holds up well under foot traffic and can help reduce runoff in lightly trafficked areas.

Those who choose to use turf in the landscape can take the following water conservation measures:

  • Use drought-resistant turf varieties to help reduce watering requirements.
  • Reduce the total amount of turf by restricting it to smaller areas where other planting types would be unacceptable, such as play spaces.
  • Monitor turf irrigation closely, using appropriate smart technology to avoid watering more than necessary.

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