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September seems to be the month when we get lots of questions about watering football pitches. Here’s my take on what is or is not possible when watering a football pitch (or an area of grass of a similar size).

Let’s take a typical football pitch measuring 105m x 68m (or 7140m squared). To apply 1mm of water over this area requires 7.14 cubic meters of water. Or, 1,570 gallons of water in Imperial measures. Modern playing surfaces typically require a nightly application of 3 – 4 times this, in the hottest weather, to maintain the quality and playability soccer demands. So, this means that an application of up to 28 cubic meters (that’s 6,160 gallons)  of water per night may be required in the height of the summer.

Whilst semi-professional or amateur football may not have the quality of pitch (or the budget) to provide this amount of water there’s still a need for it to maintain the standard of pitch that is required.

It’s a fact that most football clubs have one sort of supply to use for watering. That is a supply that comes from the town water mains. Its is quite likely it is the same supply that supplies the club house and changing rooms and toilets. By the time you need it to water the pitch there is hardly any left. Most typical mains supplies like this provide a maximum of 23 litres (5 gallons) per minute. That’s the flow of a bath tap at a pressure of 30 to 40 psi. So, you can try connecting it to a sprinkler and hose and put it on the pitch. At this flow and pressure you could expect a sprinkler (any manufacturers’) to cover a 25m circle.

Cutting to the chase, a sprinkler doing 23 litres per minute would need to be on for 309 minutes, that’s 5+ hours…just to apply 1mm of water  or 1,215 minutes (over 20 hours) to apply a recommended amount! Not forgetting how many times the sprinkler has to be moved to get the area covered. It will be a minimum of 35 times to get something approaching even coverage. Finally, this doesn’t take into account that watering during the day is inefficient, as water is lost to evaporation, wind etc etc.

From this, you can see that using the system from the mains supply isn’t really a practical solution.

So, what are the alternatives?

Can your water supply can provide 3 cubic meters per hour at a minimum pressure of 5 Bars (that’s 5 bars when 3 cubic meters per hour is flowing from the tap)? If the answer’s no, then you’ll need to consider a water storage tank and pump to provide sufficient flow and pressure to operate a system to cover the pitch.

Pumps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. A typical pumping arrangement for a football field starts at around £1,500. A suitably sized water tank to store enough water to make the system viable may cost £1,800 upwards. Then you can choose a method of watering that will be both effective and worthwhile.

The Tracker (manufactured by Perot in Germany) machine is designed for the economic irrigation of sports fields. The machine is set to one end of the pitch and a nylon cord is pulled out to the other end. The chord is then staked down with an anchor peg. Then the water is connected to the back of the machine and to a suitable supply and the machine drive engaged. The machine then winds its way along the cord, irrigating as it goes, until it reaches the end where it automatically switches off. Speed of travel can be adjusted so that it applies between 6.5 and 9 litres per square metre. The machine will cover up to a 38m width and can easily cover a 100m distance. Typically, you can cover a football pitch with 2-3 runs. It can take as little as 5 hours to complete 1 run. A typical cost of this machine would be in the region of £1,300, plus hose.

Moving upwards from this, you could purchase a hose reel-type machine where the machine sits at one end of the pitch and the hose with a sprinkler on the end is dragged to the other end. When the water is switched on, the hose automatically winds back on to the drum, switching off when complete. This machine is arguably slightly easier to operate, but usually more expensive, selling at between £2,000 and £5,000 depending on its’ specification and size.

The deluxe would be a pop-up sprinkler system, covering the whole pitch and working totally automatically…this will be covered in my next football-related blog! (Remember to follow us)

In summary, here are the main points to remember:

1 Watering of football pitches is not as simple at it first may seem.

2 Don’t be persuaded to buy lots of equipment to operate from your mains water    supply if the supply’s poor. It won’t work and it will be a waste of money.

3 Look at the facts. The pitch will need a 7,000 litres of water for a 1mm application. In the hottest of weather periods multiply this by at least x3.

4 Be prepared to invest in a decent system. Expect to invest a minimum of £3,000 (excluding the water tank) for a pump and simple irrigation machine.

5 A self-wind hose system may cost between £5,000 – £7,000.

6 Finally, we all know that grass will grow anywhere. What well though out irrigation aims to do is increase the quality, playability and overall standards within football for all.

If you’d like advice on any aspect of irrigating your football pitch or sports field, give me call on 08456 808168 or visit buyirrigation.

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