I was laying on the couch this afternoon watching a rerun of the Colorado Rapids vs. the Portland Timbers (the Rapids were getting thrashed 3-1 before I turned it off in the 75th minute to write this) when I got to thinking about how much water MLS teams use to water the pitch.
There are currently 23 teams in the MLS all with stadiums or stadiums in construction. 17 of those teams play on grass, and their pitches (or fields) range from 7,700 square yards to 9,000 square yards with an average of 8,850 yards. Cornell University’s sports field management department says that in order to keep the grass green and healthy enough to regrow after the beating of a soccer game, it needs to receive about 1″ to 2″ of water a week.
To cover one square yard of grass with an inch of water takes 5.58 gallons. So, it would take 49,383 gallons of water a week to properly water one average sized MLS soccer pitch (8,850 sq yd). That means it takes 839,511 gallons a week to water all the grass pitches in the MLS. If the stadiums only kept the grass green during the 8 month (32 week) long soccer season (which they don’t) they would use 26,864,352 gallons a season.
Contrary to what I thought when I started this post, the 6 teams that have artificial grass are not in the driest places but the wettest like Seattle, New England, Oregon, and Vancouver. This is because the MLS requires that all official stadiums have an uncovered or retractable roof pitch. So, the wetter stadiums would drown their natural grass. Keeping in mind that 1″ of water a week was the minimum, several or even all the stadiums could be using closer to 2″ a week. This would double all of these values making the season total closer to 54 million gallons.
Maybe all of the MLS teams should consider switching to artificial grass which would eliminate practically all of the water usage as water becomes harder and more expensive to acquire. Or the MLS could consider switching to greywater irrigation systems across the board which recycles the sink water and uses that to water the grass. Other greywater systems like the one in the William’s Village North dorm at CU Boulder, which reuses the sink and shower water in the toilets. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, the system saves the University 800,000 gallons of water a year just from that dorm. Will Vill North houses only 500 students, while most MLS stadiums seat anywhere from 18,000 to 42,000 people. So, even though the fans would only be using the sinks, I think the massive increase in people will make up for it. I believe a greywater system could save a stadium as much or more water than the system at Will Vill North.