California Destinations Work to Conserve Fields Amid Drought

With the drought in California in its fifth year, Todd Dibs, sports development manager for Visit Tri-Valley, draws a dramatic comparison. “This is ‘Grapes of Wrath’ type stuff,” he says. 

California Destinations Work to Conserve Fields Amid Drought

With the drought in California in its fifth year, Todd Dibs, sports development manager for Visit Tri-Valley, draws a dramatic comparison. “This is ‘Grapes of Wrath’ type stuff,” he says.

Yet anecdotal evidence from Dibs’ territory outside the Bay Area and across the state indicates the lack of rain has not dried up sports event planning.

A state tourism board spokeswoman told Connect Sports the board had not heard of any events being canceled—a credit to wide-scale conservation fields. And while El Nino is expected to bring more rain this year (and responsible for intense weather in January), conservation will remain necessary for the foreseeable future. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January 2014, establishing an interagency drought response team.

The State Water Resources Control Board added and enforces increased conservation requirements. California and federal legislators approved more than $1 billion of emergency drought relief in 2014. Stan Gibson, parks maintenance superintendent of the Tri-Valley city of Pleasanton, says mandatory restrictions forced his department to cut water usage in 2014 and 2015 to 25 percent less than that of 2013.

Water management innovation meant making compromises by splitting fields between recreational and tournament use, Gibson says. Yet the only major schedule change due to the reduced water use was that town’s largest tournament was cut to two days instead of three.

“You’re not going to shut down fields if you have 6,000 kids playing soccer every weekend,” says Dibs. “You’ll do everything in your power to make sure those fields look as good as they should.

"You’re not going to shut down fields if you have 6,000 kids playing soccer every weekend."

Gibson says his department does not use reclaimed water in its landscapes, but has purchased reclamation water from a neighboring town for a 100-acre soccer field. The major infrastructure project, which involves replumbing the area for the reclaimed water, is expected to be completed by March 1.

Meanwhile in Poway, near San Diego, Michael Tarantino, director of facilities, maintenance and operations for Poway Unified School District, says there have been no cancellations of youth or high school tournaments or games.

However, sports fields are closed if the district—which includes 25 elementary schools, six middle schools and five high schools—gets more than 0.1 of an inch of rain in order to save the field and for the safety of the players. Tarantino adds there is a list of eight tactics his staff follows to comply with mandates to cut back on water by about 25 percent. I

n some regards, he says the challenge has led to better efficiency.

“I was fortunate not to lose any staff, which allowed me to reallocate staff to provide the above maintenance to the sports fields and in some cases improved the quality of the sports fields as we focused on maintenance procedures that may not have been accomplished due to staffing,” says Tarantino.

Photo Credit: danville.ca.gov