Using “smart” watering technology designed to prevent unneeded irrigation, replacing grass with drought-tolerant plants and relying on recycled water when economically feasible are among the tactics that properties are using to comply with restrictions imposed by a 2009 law that mandates 20 percent statewide usage reduction by 2020. A drought emergency declared this year has intensified the need for conservation.
An article in the Los Angeles Daily News, written by Anthony Edwards, a reporter for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram, highlighted measures being taken by Southern California golf courses to conserve water and cut consumption under the drought emergency declared by California Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.
Golf courses and public parks, with their acres of thirsty grass, are heavy water users, the Daily News reported, and Southern California course operators and park officials say they were mandated to cut consumption since well before the governor’s office declared the drought emergency.
“Let me first say that the golf industry has been dealing with water issues [and] water conservation before this current drought,” Craig Kessler, Government Affairs Director for the Southern California Golf Association, told Edwards. “For example, in Los Angeles, the golf industry has been in 20 percent reductions since 2009 and has been meeting regularly with [the Department of] Water and Power.”
All of California was put under the same burden, the Daily News reported, after a 2009 law, SBX7-7, mandated that water usage up and down the state be reduced by 20 percent by 2020. For the people who manage golf courses and parklands, options to meet the law’s demands can be as high-tech as installing “smart” watering technology designed to prevent unneeded irrigation and as simple as removing grass to be replaced with drought-tolerant plants.
Another solution is to rely solely on recycled water, the Daily News reported. That’s what Long Beach, Calif. has done at its city-owned courses, but the cost of tearing up public roads and installing purple pipes to carry recycled water is not always feasible.
Scott Bourgeois, Director of Maintenance Operations for American Golf Corp., which manages Long Beach’s courses as well as dozens of others in California and other states, told Edwards that developing the infrastructure to deliver recycled water can cost roughly $1 million per mile. American Golf is considering the possibility of switching Sunset Hills Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. to recycled water as early as 2016, the Daily News reported, but that’s not an option everywhere.
At Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena, Calif., where the cost of switching to recycled water is too high, Bourgeois said course managers are removing 22 acres of turf from the 180-acre course. The idea is to eliminate grass from fence lines or areas well away from fairways, to minimize the impact on play, the Daily News reported.
“We’re very strategic on where we want to do this,” Bourgeois said.
The plan’s projected water savings are 70 acre-feet. An acre-foot is roughly the amount of water that a suburban household in the Southwest consumes in a year, the Daily News reported.
Rolling Hills Country Club in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., which can draw water from its own well, has also taken grass out of play, by replacing two and a half acres of grass with ground cover, the Daily News reported.
Water scarcity and the prospect of rising water costs means that golf course operators have to look at conservation as a business imperative, Kessler said, and course operators cannot assume they can pass along water costs to players.
“Water has been the centerpiece of the golf industry’s concerns for a long time, and the current situation exacerbates the situation a little bit,” Kessler said.
The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation has similarly undertaken several projects in its attempt to reduce water usage, spokesman Andre Herndon told Edwards. That includes a turf removal tactic. For example, more than six acres of grass have been replaced with decomposed granite at El Cariso Community Regional Park in Sylmar, Calif., which has its own golf course.
The county has also installed “smart” water regulators to prevent sprinkler systems from watering when weather conditions do not require irrigation.