The State of Water

By David L. Wienecke, Agronomist USGA Green Section, Southwest Region

While the common public misperception is that golf course water-management is wasteful and excessive, the truth is that most golf courses are doing an outstanding job as conscientious stewards of the precious water resource placed within their care. Indeed, the future of the golf course industry depends on closing the gap between public opinion and the realities of efficient golf course irrigation. At the same time, the industry must continue to improve its water management techniques.
A recent survey of water use for Arizona, California, Nevada, and the rest of the nation clearly documented that golfcourse water use constitutes one of the smallest—though most visible—parts of overall managed water use. Yet the common public view lags way behind this reality—most people think golfcourse water use is wasteful. In any market— but especially in one as tourismor retirement-oriented as Arizona’s—this issue clearly needs to be addressed.
Additionally, it’s time for a meaningful dialogue between golf course irrigation managers and water regulators. Golf course superintendents have stated their concern over the disparity between comprehensive water management (where minimal or deficit irrigation is common) and the overwatering that occurs in other settings. The disparity is especially stark between older golf courses and newer ones.
So what is the solution for the future?
The industry must create factual and accurate documentation of the water used by golf facilities; there must be consistent, factual dialogue between golf course irrigation managers and water regulators; and we must establish consistent management procedures for golf course water use, which will go a long way toward educating the public about the realities of golf course irrigation.
This past spring there was a beneficial dialogue between water regulators, university researchers, and golf course water users at the USGA’s Arizona Regional Conference. Since we are in the fifth year of severe drought in the Arizona, all parties involved in the discussion are motivated to continue the dialogue.
Golf course water users and regulators nation-wide have found that “Best Management Practices” are the only sure way to assure turf health and golf play quality. Factual discussions also assure the public that the resource is being used responsilbly.