In a drought state of emergency, it is not an unpopular opinion that luxuries, such as golfing, ought to be forfeited in favor of the necessities â€“ producing greater quantities of nutritious food and preventing the spread of dangerous forest fire.
In response to mandates outlined in the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, overseers at California's highest-priority underground basins are assessing how the state's waning water supply will be allocated in the future. Unsurprisingly, the Saturday morning round of golf is one activity that has taken a backseat in the midst of the state's worsening drought problem.
But don't expect the gentleman's game to go quietly from the Golden State because of a little water deficiency. While head groundskeepers at many world-famous golf courses along the California coast have had to sacrifice aesthetics for playability due to reduced consumption mandates, others have managed to strike a balance by implementing some innovative methods. Let's take a look at some of the ways course superintendents in California and around the world can reduce their course's water consumption:
Invest in a water audit
With the irregular shape of a golf course, irrigation uniformity is nearly impossible and can lead to excessive water use, especially in arid climates. To combat unnecessary loss, many superintendents hire professionals to conduct water audits to determine what equipment and irrigation schedules are ideal for a specific course and its unique climate. While expensive, water audits are highly effective, as they have shown that golf courses tend to use between 20 and 50% more water than is required.
Redirect and recycle
In addition to proper irrigation tools and scheduling, courses experiencing long-term drought can also become more water-efficient by utilizing reclaimed water and storm water collection. Reclaimed water is wastewater that has been treated to the point where it meets drinking water standards but is still deemed non-potable.
Non-potable water can be used on most fairways and roughs (generally not greens, as reclaimed water carries high levels of dissolved solids and can be harsh on certain vegetation), as well as in clubhouse and course toilets and urinals; it must, however, be separated from all sources that require potable water, such as drinking fountains and faucets.
Make small adjustments
The water-saving methods can extend beyond smart sprinkler systems and retrofitted pipes to include a number of simple tactics. On the course, landscapers should do their best to limit the amount of turf incorporated into the layout, instead utilizing pine straw and other materials that don't need to be watered regularly.
In the clubhouse, continuous flow faucets should be discontinued, water-cooled ice machines should be replaced with air-cooled alternatives and appliances, such as dishwashers, should be replaced every 10 years with a more efficient model.
For more information on upgrades and changes that can be made on just about any golf course, including design techniques and tips for finding grass breeds that require less water, you can refer to the USGA's conservation guide.