Drought Tackles Sports Fields in California

The latest casualty of the California drought: school sports.  California cities have shut off the irrigation taps to sports fields, making them too dry and brittle for safe play, Ingfei Chen reports today in “California’s drought creates an unexpected casualty: sports.” The story is our first report with The Guardian as part of its new platform, “Vital Signs.”

“School and college sports are one of the latest casualties of a relentless drought that has left 95 percent of the state suffering severe to exceptional drought conditions,” reports Chen. “State and federal water projects have drastically cut supplies to agriculture, which typically consumes 80 percent of California’s water supply.”

Chen focuses in on Santa Cruz, which has responded more aggressively to the drought than most California cities because, isolated by a coastal mountain range, it gets all its water from a local reservoir and river that are running low. “The city declared a water shortage emergency in early 2014 and imposed mandatory restrictions in May that required all residents and businesses to cut overall consumption by 25 percent,” she reports.

In addition, the city water agency is requiring schools and city parks to limit themselves to just one-third of the water budget that their gardens, lawns or fields need. Hard turf creates a safety concern for players, who are more likely to suffer a concussion or shoulder or knee injuries if they are tackled or fall.

Some California cities and school districts have converted their irrigation systems to tap into a recycled water source, while others have put in artificial turf fields to save on maintenance and water costs. However, artificial turf is hotter to play on and needs careful cleaning to prevent infections from skin abrasions.

FERN’s stories on Vital Signs will be overseen by Editor-at-Large George Black.

You can read the full story here at The Guardian, or here on our website.