Does Artificial Turf Actually Save Water?

Companies market artificial turf toward places that have strict watering regulations and warm climates that receive low amounts of precipitation. They do not require watering to stay green all year long. Do they actually conserve water though?

The Problem with Artificial Turf

New Mexico State University conducted a study to measure whether artificial turf saved water when compared to real grass. Ahmed Kanaan, in the engineering department, used the turf on the university’s baseball field to measure how the temperature of the artificial turf and the amount of water needed to cool it off.

Artificial turf can become hotter than the air around it (as high as 180° to 200° F) and heat up the surrounding area. This is dangerous to the athletes and others in contact with it. The heat radiating from the turf even damaged the Bermuda grass next to the baseball field. The amount of water put on the artificial turf in 20 minutes was the amount of water Bermuda grass would need for a day—and the turf didn’t stay cool for long.

Having artificial turf actually takes more water than regular grass. While this may be useful for universities to consider to save water, does this translate to residential usage?

Residential Usage

Turf still needs to be cooled, as well as cleaned, unlike real grass. Artificial turf is partially made from recycled rubber, which keeps it out of landfills, but the rest is made of plastic. Current turf brands claim to last 15 to 20 years (with critics claiming only eight). Either way, you will need to replace artificial turf, and the discarded one will likely go to a landfill.

Turf won’t use as much water as maintaining grass in hot temperatures, but it doesn’t come with the benefits of actual plants.

The Benefits of Plants

Plants cool the air around it, instead of heating it like turf does because plants release oxygen and water molecules. The water molecules immediately evaporate to cool the air. The more plants you have, the cooler the environment around them.

Urban landscape makes the ground smooth and without pores to absorb water. Having plants leads to less erosion and they allow water to be absorbed into the soil. This makes the ground more like a sponge. Foliage also provides a habitat for natural wildlife and gives back to the environment.

artificial turf

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

What Else Is There?

Sometimes it still isn’t feasible to justify grass and the amount of maintenance it requires to thrive. Xeriscaping minimizes your water usage without adding plastics to your yard. Use native plants instead, and if you still want some artificial turf, use a small amount.

Image Source: Pixabay

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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