Irrigation and drainage are key components to any athletic field management program. The following information provides facts and advice for proper irrigation and drainage strategies.

Rootzone Selection
Understanding the basic soil makeup is the first step to better irrigation practices and drainage.
The following is a guide to understanding the effect your athletic field rootzone has on water availability.

As water is applied to an athletic surface either by precipitation or irrigation, the water can:
• enter the rootzone. From there it can be taken up and used by turfgrass plants, lost to evapotranspiration, or percolate through the rootzone to recharge groundwater supplies.
• runoff the surface.
• evaporate into the atmosphere.

Rootzone construction is extremely important for how water enters and moves through the soil. The rootzone can affect water availability, and water tables. It is important to know the makeup of your rootzone in order to determine proper irrigation practices and what to expect with rain events.

Rootzone Construction
Water Availability
Water Tables

Irrigation is necessary for athletic fields to supply moisture for turfgrass growth, wash in fertilizers and some pesticides, reduce surface hardness caused by heavy field use, promote seed germination, reduce tissue temperature during severe heat and drought stress, and contribute to overall player safety. On baseball fields, irrigation helps reduce dust and improves traction for players.

The goal of irrigation is to maximize precipitation and irrigation and minimize losses due to evaporation, transpiration, runoff, leaching or drainage. Effective irrigation applies enough water to soak the rootzone but avoids loss to drainage or runoff.

Amount and Frequency for Irrigation Application

Irrigation Systems

Drainage is one of the most important issues when managing a sports field. Your field will not perform well if you do not have surface or internal drainage in place. Surface and subsurface drainage problems, such as standing water and high water tables, can pose a safety hazard to athletes and other users. These problems can also cause cancellation or postponement of events due to field closure. It is important to understand what types of drainage will work best for your field to enhance user safety and reduce field closures.

Drainage Solutions


Interpreting Turfgrass Irrigation Water Test Results

Irrigating Turfgrass and Landscape Plants with Municipal Recycled Water

Effective Water Use

University Publications on Irrigation:
UMass Guidelines for Watering Turf - University of Massachusetts
Management Tips to Improve Turfgrass Drought Survival - University of Massachusetts
Water - The Boondoggle for Native Soil Sports Fields - University of Kentucky
Sports Field Irrigation - University of Kentucky
Best Management Practices for Non Agricultural Irrigation - Michigan State University
Turfgrass Irrigation Module - Michigan State University
A Practical Guide to Managing Irrigations on Turfgrass - New Mexico State University
Principles of Turfgrass Irrigation - Penn State University
Irrigation Water Quality Guidelines for Turfgrass Sites - Penn State University
Irrigation - University of Tennessee
Water Reuse: Using Reclaimed Water for Irrigation - Virginia Tech
Water Requirements of North Carolina Turfgrasses - North Carolina State University
Water Quality and Professional Turf Managers - North Carolina State University
Florida Green Industries - Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida - University of Florida

International Resources