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Demonstration 6: Soil & Turf Amendments at Municipal Athletic Fields

Learn about the Soil & Turf Amendments at Municipal Athletic Fields Demonstration for the Ipswich River Watershed Project.

Project Description

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 athletic fields and parks.
  • Measure the water savings resulting from the soil-amendments.
  • Reduce nonpoint source pollution by reducing the need for, and application of, fertilizers and pesticides.

Details: One of four fields in a municipal athletic complex directly next to the river was redeveloped to reduce irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticide needs. 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, turf, and original soil profile – was used as a “control” in a study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the zeolite.

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

Project Photos


  • 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.


$15,000 for 20 tons of Zeolite

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.

Key Results and Conclusions

  • The addition of zeolite, a moisture- and nutrient-retaining additive, to the soil of an athletic field resulted in healthy turf with lower irrigation needs than the control field.

  • Average water savings, based on the model simulation described above, amounted to 38,400 gallons per acre per year, or a 37% reduction in water use.