Sports parks, and irrigated lawns, are profligate water users

Two large sports parks are currently under development in Hamilton and Marion counties.

The largest is a massive Grand Park in Westfield which features 26 baseball diamonds and 31 multi-purpose playing fields on 360 acres. To irrigate these expanses of turfgrass, 3 sources of water will be needed— on-site drainage retention ponds, 2 drilled wells, and service from Citizens Water. Already, the City of Westfield has compensated several nearby property owners for the resultant failures of their residential wells.

The World Sports Park in southeastern Marion County comprises 40 acres and 4 playing fields for various sports. Irrigating this park, as it is being developed, has also caused private area wells to lose water and the City to incur additional costs to drill deeper wells.

Both of these newest sports projects are intended to produce economic development benefits. One wonders, though, about their long-term effect on groundwater availability. Citizens Water had recently reported some difficulty in finding locations for new wells in Hamilton County which deliver a sustainable yield of groundwater. Boone County officials have recently produced a report which calls for new sources of supply to support desired high rates of suburban growth that have come to comprise “bragging rights” for officials in Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers and nearby areas.

Irrigation of turfgrass is a wasteful use of water, especially potable water, during times of drought. Yet in 2010, America had 21 million acres covered with turfgrass. Last year during the drought, one residential Carmel customer on the Citizens Water system was drawing more than a million gallons a day of potable water from the Citizens’s system to irrigate his property, presumably including a private golf course.

Hopefully, the demand for lawns will change over time. It will need to if central Indiana is to properly manage its water resources. As Laura Vanderkarn put it (USA Today, Out of Fashion: Green Lawns, 8-17-10: “The best approach is for all of us to start thinking of lawns as fashion— a fashion like wearing the feathers of rare birds in hats was once a fashion. Fashions can change when enough people decide they are ridiculous or wasteful.”

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