The Greening of Golf
In this age of global warming and record droughts, what, if anything, are golf courses doing to help alleviate the problem of dwindling groundwater reserves? This is a tough question, and depending on who you ask, the responses are very different.
In the American South West, the area of the country hardest hit by the drought, some of the highest concentration of golf courses can be found. Both Arizona and California have among the highest number in the country, only slightly less than Florida. It does seem rather incongruous to be driving through the desert, surrounded by sand and cacti when the only burst of colour in the area is the bright green grass of the local golf course.
According to the EPA, the average family of four in the USA uses 400 gallons of water per day while it is estimated that golf courses use approximately 2.08 billion gallons of water per day for irrigation, although the industry does claim it is but a fraction when considered what is used by agriculture. Of course, everyone eats, while not everyone golfs!
Golf courses, aware of the negative publicity their thirsty ways are generating, are attempting to find new and creative ways to reduce their impact on groundwater reserves.
- They are utilizing on-site weather stations and computerized irrigation systems to apply water in the most efficient manner and only in areas that require irrigation
- Where available, some courses are using grey water for their irrigation needs and installing in-house recycling facilities for the water used
- They are incorporating storage ponds in the design of the course to collect storm water runoff to be used for irrigation
- Alternative grasses are being developed which require less water and some that are tolerant of brackish water so non-potable water can be used
- Courses have been redesigned to reduce the grass on the “non-golfing” areas of the course and replant more native vegetation
Even though golf courses have a goal of 20% reduction of water use by 2020 in some areas, they still use a significant percentage of the total water consumed. In 2014, in Coachella Valley, California, golf courses accounted for 24% of the areas total water consumption, and that is an area where there are a lot of lawns!
Golf is a very divisive topic and this will only continue to escalate as groundwater reserves are depleted around the globe. Many people see golf as an elitist activity and when they are being told not to wash their cars or to get rid of their lawns in order to conserve water, resent what they see as a waste of their dwindling water resources. It remains to be seen how communities in drought affected areas try to resolve some of these water demand issues and doubtful if all parties involved will be pleased with the new rules and regulations.