Las Vegas Courses Conserve a Billion Gallons of Water

Since 2001, Las Vegas area golf courses have converted more than 18.5 million square feet of grass - about 425 acres - to water-smart landscaped, target-style courses resulting in a 1 billion gallon per year water savings.

Eleven courses in Southern Nevada currently are in the midst of landscape conversions. Among them, Red Rock Country Club has converted more than a million square feet this year at its Arroyo and Mountain courses. Spanish Trail Golf and Country Club is undergoing a major overhaul of the entire course, including turf removal, reshaping and improving ponds and moving irrigation lines, said GCSAA Class A superintendent Jon Valentine.

The city of Henderson has launched major landscape conversions at its municipal Wild Horse Golf Course, while the Angel Park Golf Club is in the midst of a 70-acre conversion scheduled for completion in 2008, said GCSAA Class A superintendent Bill Rohret. So far, he said, players are giving the changes "rave reviews."

"We don't hear any more complaints about balls being lost in the rough," Rohret said.

All local golf courses have on-site weather stations linked to their irrigation systems so irrigation schedules are based on daily weather conditions. These systems also monitor evapotranspiration, the amount of moisture given off by grasses and plants, so water is applied only as needed.

Most courses also use valve-in-head technology instead of typical residential and commercial systems with one valve for every five to 10 sprinkler heads. This provides them with greater control over watering run times and coverage.

Current drought restrictions subject local golf courses to water budgets, restricting them to 6.3 acre-feet of water per acre. (An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons.) Significant financial penalties are applied to any water used over budgeted amounts.

Once the irrigated acreage is measured, it remains fixed, creating an incentive for golf courses to convert unneeded turf to other styles of water-efficient landscaping. If a golf course expands its course by increasing the number of playing holes, a new irrigated acreage is determined.

To further extend their water savings, golf courses in Southern Nevada primarily use warm-season grasses. Some municipal courses don't overseed, so the grass gets almost no water during the winter months and only about two-thirds as much as a cool-season grass, such as fescue, would require in the summer.

"Golf courses are the most judicious business about the way they use water," said Valentine. "We don't just set a timer and walk away. Water conservation is one of the biggest parts of what we do every day."

The above report is courtesy of Divot Mix, an e-publication of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. For more, visit