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Field irrigation and water recycling

This content is provided by the 49ers Museum Education Program.


Football players love playing on natural grass turf. It looks beautiful, smells great, and stays cool. However, natural grass needs maintenance, or work, to keep the grass healthy. Irrigating (or watering) the field is an important part of field maintenance, but clean water is a precious resource that could go away if used too much. In the design and construction of Levi’s® Stadium, engineers looked at various options that would allow the stadium to be more efficient with its water usage.
Irrigation is a process to supplement rainfall artificially. Whenever areas receive 20 inches of precipitation or less (semi-arid climates) annually, irrigation is necessary to ensure continuous plant growth. Football fields have to withstand prolonged periods of wear and tear. It is important to choose the right variety of grass for the playing area based not only on how sturdy it is, but also on how much watering it needs. This is dependent on temperatures prevalent during a playing season. Because of the location of Levi’s® Stadium and the low average amount of rainfall, it is essential to develop an irrigation system that not only keeps the grass healthy, but also manages and recycles the water appropriately. The stadium uses natural Bermuda grass as its playing field which uses 50% less water than other grass options, however, the field still needs to be irrigated and maintained to provide a safe and hearty surface for game use.
The stadium uses reclaimed (recycled) water for both potable and nonpotable uses, such as irrigating the field. This not only takes care of the field, but also conserves the community’s water use. Levi’s® Stadium has been connected to Santa Clara’s recycled water system, making it the first stadium in California to utilize this drought-proof water source. Recycled water accounts for about 85% of all water used in Levi’s® Stadium – setting a new standard for stadiums that aspire to be environmentally sensitive by conserving natural resources.
Other stadiums in the U.S. are plumbed for recycled water use, but none are using it to the extent and in the myriad of ways as Levi’s® Stadium. Through innovation and cooperative partnerships, the stadium was able to achieve this new standard of enviro-friendly operations. The recycled water system is a key element in making Levi’s® Stadium the greenest stadium in the country.
With California experiencing historic drought conditions, the timing couldn’t be better to showcase the benefits of recycled water whenever and wherever possible. By visiting the stadium, the general public is becoming more aware of the importance of using recycled water and models a better and more sustainable management approach of the Bay Area water supply.
This content is provided by the 49ers Museum Education Program.

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