Anya Alvarez | Contributor
Sports is big business in the United States. Most recently it was valued as a $60.5 billion industry in 2014 and is expected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019.
Due to its growth, water usage and quality in sport is becoming of growing interest to sports leagues.
As one can imagine, the use of water at sports facilities is particularly high. But a new report shows the different ways sport venues can reduce their water usage.
Currently, over 240 million spectators attend games annually, with the total square footage of the facilities expanding over hundreds of millions. By implementing water saving initiatives, sport venues can save an exponential sum of money. For instance, the University of Minnesota saved $412,000 through the implementation of water and energy conservation measures. From 2006-2011, the Seattle Mariners saved approximately $1.5 million in utility costs, this included reducing water usage by 25 percent and MetLife Stadium installed water-efficient plumbing, also reducing their annual water usage by 25%.
Golf courses are also becoming more proactive in reducing water usage. In California alone, golf courses account for the highest water usage in non-agricultural businesses, at over 100 billion gallons a year. However, more courses in California are using recycled water and leaving zones of unused fairway unwatered. Before California’s governor Jerry Brown implemented mandatory water restrictions, due to the state’s drought, golf courses had put themselves on a “water diet,” aiming to use less than 20% of water than usual.
But while the sport industry is trying to lessen their environmental impact, there is another issue to address: water quality for water-sports.
Recently, Florida’s agency in charge of protecting the state’s water, implemented new measures that imposed limits on 39 additional toxins and updated their limits allowed on 43 other chemicals dumped into Florida’s rivers, streams and coastal waters. They are also allowing at least 10 new chemicals to be discharged into water.
Environmentalists felt these new regulations were unsatisfactory and actually believe water quality in Florida will be further harmed, stating, “higher levels of carcinogens and chemicals that can disrupt natural hormones to [will] discharged into Florida waters.” As stated before in Hydroviv’s previous blog post, even if toxic levels are regulated in water, it should still be considered toxic.
Trash in ocean waters is another issue that plagues water sports enthusiasts. Andrea Neal, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Sciences, is working to make oceans a safer place for swimmers, divers, and fishers. Plastics, paper and other debris, ranging from microscopic toxins to everyday garbage, pose life-threatening hazards to human and marine life.
Other grassroots movements are not waiting for local governments to clean up the oceans, taking it upon themselves to remove trash. In Oregon alone, semi-annual walking beach clean ups over the last thirty years, have collected 2.8 million pounds of trash, mostly comprised of cigarette butts, fishing ropes, and plastic bottles.
For river sports, like kayaking and canoeing, water quality is also an issue. Project AWARE in Iowa travels around the state rivers cleaning up the the trash themselves, ensuring that people who enjoy the water for recreational sports will not be exposed to anything harmful.
And with the growth of water sports, like paddle boarding, whose market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 15.05% during the period 2016-2020, safer and clean water will be even more crucial.
“It takes love and commitment, patience and persistence to keep cleaning up habitats,” says Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., co-founder of four grassroots water advocacy groups. “Clean water is important though, to sustain fit life on the planet.”
With that in mind, since the sports industry will continue to grow across all spectrums, it will be necessary for it to continue to reduce its water usage and also maintain water quality control. Effective and lasting change in these two areas will come when governing bodies of local municipalities and the sports industries begin working together to make this happen.
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