Ipswich River Park, North Reading
Ipswich River Park, North Reading

Location: Ipswich River Park, North Reading, MA



  • Demonstrate the use of soil- and turf-enhancement techniques to reduce watering needs on municipal fields and/or parks.
  • Quantify the water savings associated with moisture retaining soil-amendments.
  • Reduce nonpoint source pollution by reducing the need for, and application of, fertilizers and pesticides.


Description: One of four fields in a municipal athletic complex, located adjacent to the river at Ipswich River Park, was redeveloped to reduce irrigation requirements and application of fertilizer and pesticides. Techniques included:

The remaining three fields received only the latter two treatments. The field immediately adjacent to the zeolite field -  which had identical solar orientation, drainage patterns, turf, and original soil profile – was used as a “control” in a study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the zeolite.



Athletic Fields Link to the image file.

Weather Based Irrigation Controls Link to the image file.


Data Collection and Analysis: The town monitored irrigation demand and turf health of the zeolite field and the control field. 

Weather settings on the irrigation controller were progressively adjusted for the zeolite and control fields, individually, until the most conservative watering regime that would still maintain healthy turf was identified for each field.  Using these respective settings and a five-year period of detailed weather records, it was possible to simulate the number of irrigation cycles that would be triggered for each field over the five-year period and thus compare long-term irrigation demands of the two fields.


  • Zeolite soil amendment applied in spring 2006 (15 tons) and summer 2007 (5 tons)
  • Optimal watering regimes determined by gradual adjustments during the 2007 irrigation season.


Costs:            $15,000 for 20 tons of Zeolite 

Key Results and Conclusions:

  • The addition of a moisture- and nutrient-retaining additive, zeolite, to the soil of an athletic field resulted in healthy turf with less water applied than was applied to an adjacent control field.
  • Average savings from the retrospective simulation of irrigation demand indicated a savings of 38,400 gallons per acre per year or a 37% reduction in water use.

Final Reports and Publications:

Tsai, Yushiou, Sara Cohen, Richard M. Vogel, 2011. The Impacts of Water Conservation Strategies on Water Use: Four Case Studies. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. pp.1-15 (print publication pending)  pdf format of The Impacts of Water Conservation Strategies on Water

Ipswich River Targeted Watershed Grant Fact Sheet: Four Water Conservation Case Studies  pdf format of Ipswich River Targeted Watershed Grant Fact Sheet

In-kind cooperation: Town of North Reading 

Irrigation controller supply, installation, and maintenance: AquaSave LLC, Ipswich, MA 

Monitoring and Analysis: DCR and Tufts University with oversight from a Technical Advisory Committee comprised of eight water conservation professionals