Water Woes: A New Solution for Golf Courses

The availability of water is one of the greatest operational challenges facing many golf course superintendents. Considering 70 percent of the planet is made up of water, that may come as a surprise. But as the availability of water diminishes, its use for golf course irrigation is coming under more scrutiny. As a result, superintendents have begun to think outside the box when irrigating their courses.

Irrigation water can come from four sources: groundwater (wells), surface water (streams), storm water (runoff) and wastewater (effluent). The use of effluent water, or reclaimed water, offers one solution to the growing concern.

Effluent water, which is highly treated wastewater from a municipal treatment plant, is a growing source of golf course irrigation. Many superintendents have turned to this method as an alternative to clean water for irrigation. While most effluent water use is now voluntary, it is currently required in some arid Southwest regions.

A survey conducted in 1978 reported 26 respondents across the country then used recycled water. A recent survey conducted by the National Golf Foundation (NGF) reported approximately 13 percent of golf courses nationwide now use effluent irrigation sources, and this increased to 34 percent in the Southwest.

Wastewater may be available with or without cost, and the supply is typically consistent as long as people are showering and flushing toilets with regularity. The most common costs are for transporting it to the property. In addition, golf courses may be forced to accept a minimum daily volume regardless of need, making sufficient storage a potential expense.

Of course, treated wastewater carries some baggage, notably a dirty public image, which will vary with the nature of the source waters and the treatment technologies. Wastewater irrigation may also contribute to increased management costs in a variety of ways.

The greatest advantage of effluent is that the supply is rarely interrupted by a drought. The disadvantages vary, and can include high cost of delivery, poor water quality and the presence of regional/state/local operational restrictions that may be imposed. The problems are manageable with careful decisions made during construction and well thought out maintenance programs.

Some of the issues facilities must consider when using effluent:

Water quality
Nutrient content
Climate and annual rainfall
Regular monitoring of soil and water chemistry
Budgeting appropriately
Complying with local regulations

As technology advances and the availability of resources for irrigating golf courses diminishes, effluent water will become more of a standard in a superintendent's daily practices, offering an environmental-friendly solution to the ever-increasing water woes.

For more information regarding golf course maintenance and etiquette, contact your local superintendent or the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America at 800/472-7878 or at www.gcsaa.org, www.golfsuper.com and www.gcsa2.com.

The above is presented by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.