Water-wise innovation wins the turf war

Saving water while building the resilience of turf on fields and ovals can be a long mission, but just four years into its Sports Field Improvement Program, Lake Macquarie City Council is starting to see excellent results.

The New South Wales council’s achievements attracted attention in March, when it proudly accepted the Program Innovation Award at the 2016 Australian Water Association NSW Water Awards. The award recognised the significant and innovative environmental and sustainability benefits of the Lake Macquarie Sports Field Improvement Program.

Council’s Acting Manager Sustainability, Dean Chapman, said the Program has helped Council save about 50ML of water a year – the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools – while improving playing surfaces for local sporting teams.

“By rethinking our approach to how we use compost and different turf species, and improving our irrigation and monitoring systems, Council is saving money, saving water, reducing waste to landfill, and ensuring the City’s sports facilities remain resilient to impacts of climate change like prolonged hot weather and drought.”

So far, the Council has used more than 2000 cubic metres of compost to improve soil condition and increase water retention at 15 sites through the program. Water savings have also been achieved through the roll out of a central irrigation control system to enhance the scheduling of irrigation and monitoring of irrigation system performance.

Ageing and inefficient irrigation systems have been replaced with new, highly efficient systems. Existing irrigation systems have also been modified to optimise their performance. This has involved changing the sprinkler types and nozzles as well as replacing pumps.

“The monitoring functions within the central control system have enabled irrigation system issues, such as pipe bursts and faulty valves, to be quickly identified and rectified, preventing significant water or turf losses,” said Mr Chapman.

“We’ve also reduced irrigation demand and improved turf condition by converting fields with high foot traffic from kikuyu to a tougher couch cultivar.”

Lake Macquarie City Council will now represent NSW in the Program Innovation category at the National Water Awards, to be announced at the OzWater16 conference in Melbourne on Wednesday 11 May.