Should golf courses and other sports in the “sporting entertainment” industry be able to continue using massive amounts of water while the rest of the state withers away? In drought-stricken California, golf is often seen as a bad guy — it can be hard to defend watering acres of grass for fun when residents are being ordered to cut their usage and farmers are draining their wells. But golf is a $6 billion industry in the state and employs nearly 130,000 workers, according to the California Golf Course Owners Association. So while the greens are staying green, most golf courses are saving every drop of water they can.
For example a course called Pelican Hill just outside of LA, continues to water the but they are doing it in a very smart way – using reclaimed water. And the reclaimed water is being used in a very specific, measured way. A lot of golf courses use recycled or reclaimed water, but the most progressive including Pelican Hill are managing water differently.
Bermuda grass is key – That grass was chosen because it needs less water and doesn’t grow as quickly. And in the non-playing areas, the course uses native bushes that use no water. That said, the course is as swanky and fancy as it gets, and Friedlander says the players laying out more than $300 for a round shouldn’t notice any differences in the greens and the fairways. The key is the irrigation system. Course managers can monitor and control irrigation from their smartphones.
You can water specific areas of the golf course without watering other specific areas. We can isolate each head, so instead of turning on 50 heads, and overwatering an area that doesn’t need water, we can turn on one head and water one area that might need water. Doing so Pelican Hill says it saves 50 million gallons of water each year — recycled water, mind you. There is something else that makes Pelican Hill special: rainwater.
The course captures every bit of rainfall possible because it’s cheaper and two, it’s a very high-quality water. Any rain that falls on the buildings, pavement and cart paths goes into one of the course reservoirs — which form the major water features on the course. And underground, there are giant cisterns that hold millions of gallons of runoff water from the course.
For a course like Pelican Hill in a wealthy town like Newport Coast has a real incentive to save water, but saving water is not just a California problem. If you’re in the golf industry and you’re not a water quality and a management person, then what are you doing?