Maumelle Country Club and the Country Club of Arkansas have used Lake Willastein as a water source during summer droughts or well pump failures at no cost, and are facing a resolution that could force them to pay. In Brooklyn, N.Y., Marine Park Golf Course received a $502,900 “green infrastructure grant” to build a rainwater harvesting system as part of a plan to make the course independent of the city’s water supply.
City officials in Maumelle are discussing a resolution that would force two golf courses to pay for millions of gallons of water they now get for free, the Little Rock (Ark.)-based Arkansas Matters reported.
“We don’t need to be subsidizing profits,” said Alderman Steve Mosley.
The Maumelle Country Club and the Country Club of Arkansas, both located in Maumelle, are two businesses that need a lot of water to keep the greens green, Matters reported.
“If they’re deprived of water in real hot, sunny conditions they can literally die and put us out of business for months if not longer,” said Tim Jenkins, General Manager and part owner of the Country Club of Arkansas.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, representatives of both golf courses said Lake Willastein is a key resource. During summer droughts or well pump failures, the golf courses draw millions of gallons from the lake through a series of culverts. Right now, they do it for free, Matters reported.
C&RB reported on the city’s decision to divert water from Lake Willastein to the clubs in 2011 (“Arkansas City Gives Free Water to Country Clubs”).
“I’m pro business, but also businesses need to stand on their own,” Mosley said.
The issue is one of fairness, Mosley said, with Lake Willastein as a public resource from which golf courses should pay to pump. Lake Willastein fills with rainwater that without the lake’s dam would flow to his golf course anyway, Jenkins said.
“We’re doing this in a responsible way,” Jenkins said, pointing out that most years the golf course doesn’t need to draw any water from the lake. “We’re not taking any more water than is necessary.”
Mosley worried that the golf courses are beginning to rely on Lake Willastein more and more, something that could hurt the lake’s future. “It should be primarily for the residents and not for the golf course,” he said.
A compromise deal crafted by mayor Michael Watson would have the golf courses pay $600 per four-inch draw from the lake, which is about 6,000,000 gallons. Mosley is pushing for a $2,000 charge for the first four inches plus financial incentives to discourage the golf courses from becoming reliant on the lake, Matters reported.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., Marine Park Golf Course received a $502,900 “green infrastructure grant” to build a rainwater harvesting system as part of a plan to make the course independent of the city’s expensive water supply, the Brooklyn Daily reported.
Not long after Michael and Adam Giordano took the reigns of the city-owned golf course in 2008, they realized their new business would suffer if it continued relying on the city’s metered pipes. The course can drink up to four million gallons of water a year, costing the operators $1.8 million at current rates, with rates going up every year, the Daily reported.
“Without improving the economics, and reducing our dependence on grid energy and city water, the park is not going to continue to grow, or even exist,” said Adam Giordano.
This was the Giordanos’ third try at securing the state grant, and while the funding will help ease its water woes, they say water harvesting is just part of the solution, the Daily reported.
“It’s a piece of the puzzle,” said Michael Giordano. “It’s a welcome piece, but still one piece.”
In addition to building the half-million-dollar system to capture rainwater, the Giordanos will have to expand the park’s pond in order to store it, and drill on-site wells to draw additional water from underground if they hope to get the golf course off the city’s pipes. But those projects are still tied up in red tape, and the worry is that bringing these other puzzle pieces together will take longer than the operators can continue shouldering the massive water bills, the Daily reported.
“We have the money to drill the wells, but it’s in the Parks Department budget, and that could take four to five years to be acted on,” said Michael Giordano. “But we don’t have another four or five years.”
The alternative to taking these steps to free the thirsty course from the expensive city water supply would be to go the way of previous operators and shut off the tap, turning the greens into browns—a backslide that Giordano does not want to see happen after investing time and money in improving the long-distressed course, the Daily reported.
“Now that there’s a renaissance going on,” Michael Giordano said, “to cut that renaissance off now would just be really tragic.”
Now that the Giordanos have the money mostly in place to implement their plans, the last obstacle to making the renewed golf course sustainable is navigating the maze of city and state agencies that must sign off before work can begin, the Daily reported.
“We have a gauntlet of people with oversight over these things,” said Michael Giordano.
Michael Giordano credited the successful state grant application to a coordinated push by elected officials, including state Senator Marty Golden, but Giordano worries that with all the upcoming turnover in City Hall, the public course may not find a champion to maintain the momentum to finish the multifaceted project, the Daily reported.
“Unless there’s someone shepherding this through, it may not happen,” he said. “And that would be a shame, because this is a city asset, and if the city doesn’t do this now, it would really be a missed opportunity.”
C&RB’s “Fluid Situation” series in the December 2013 and February 2014 issues tackles the ongoing complications of water management for golf course properties.