Water-Wise & Pound-Sensible

Editor’s Note: The following article was prepared by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. It discusses water usage and how superintendents across the country seek to minimize the amount of irrigation water applied to their golf courses, while ensuring that the courses remain playable and challenging.

Golf course superintendents are always looking for innovative ways to minimize the amount of water used on their courses. Efficient water use on golf courses is dependent upon several factors, most notably the irrigation practices of the turf manager and performance of the irrigation system.

Proper design and installation are critical for an irrigation system to perform effectively. Hydraulics, nozzle selection, control capabilities and climate all must be considered in the design process. The adjustment of pumps and regulators, and the replacement of worn nozzles or other damaged components must be ongoing.

Outdated systems present additional challenges as aging hardware results in major failures of pumps, controllers and mainlines, causing the loss of large areas of turf. To counter such problems, many superintendents make it a daily routine to spot standing water, repair leaks and adjust controllers – to correct areas that are too dry or too wet. Techniques to maximize irrigation efficiency include adjusting sprinkler head spacing for uniform coverage, tailoring nozzle size to the soil texture and utilizing individual sprinkler head control to ensure flexible scheduling.

Turf professionals invest a great deal of time and money into superior irrigation systems to reduce the amount of water, as well as money, spent on the course.

What more can be done?

Some superintendents opt to upgrade hardware or invest in a completely new system altogether, while others have decided on irrigation auditors, who help budget management costs.

Applying a wetting agent ensures that water penetrates the soil. Studies show that without a wetting agent, 30 to 70 percent of applied water never reaches the root of the plant. Wetting agents reduce the surface tension of the water being applied, reducing runoff and evaporation.

Another effective irrigation practice uses a central computer controller or satellite systems to manage irrigation. The central control and satellite control systems on the market today allow superintendents to budget water and determine which areas of the course have special irrigation needs. There are even systems that can be connected to weather and soil moisture monitors. These systems only water turf when necessary.

Whatever method is used, the golfer can be sure of one thing – the superintendent has dotted every “I” and crossed every “T” when it comes to resourcefully irrigating their course.

For more information regarding golf course management practices, contact your local superintendent or the GCSAA at 800/472-7878 or visit www.gcsaa.org.