Data shows that the earth's climate is changing. The UK and Western Europe are experiencing more frequent extremes of weather, like the UK winters of 2009 and 2010, and the drought of spring 2012.
We are seeing more extreme storms and rainfall events and, significantly, droughts of greater intensity and duration. The United States has also seen the incredible effects of climate change this year, with record breaking heatwaves across the country, and hurricanes hitting the northeast in two consecutive years.
No matter where you are in the world, the changing climate will have a significant effect on how you effectively and efficiently manage your water resources.
Water is one of the most critical economic, social and environmental issues for golf facilities, and it is now absolutely vital to preserve water regardless of the source, or your climate and location. There can be no justification for injudicious use, waste, or pollution of this life sustaining and precious resource.
Taking action now to diversify water supplies, improve surface drainage and minimise overall consumption will protect your golf club from cost increases, drought orders, flash floods, irregular supply and changes in water quality outside your control.
The turf grass of your playing area is the club's number one asset. It requires water to stay healthy and provide good playing standards. Is your selection of turf grass species or cultivars the correct one for your climate and soil type? Do you irrigate to keep the turf grass alive, or to get the best colour possible? Is your agronomic and integrated pest management plan based on routine, or tailored specifically for every variable year-on-year? Do you ensure that the risks of leaching, run-off and spray drift are absolutely minimised?
These questions, and many others, should be asked to ensure that you are responsible in the use of every drop of water you consume and that passes over and through your course.
Money does fall from the sky
Water efficiency provides great returns for your bottom line. An 'every drop counts' approach to course maintenance (and design) will save you money, help with year round turf quality, and position you as a leader in sustainability performance. For example, every square metre of land that you take out of irrigation minimises consumption and expenditure. In this economic climate, who wouldn't want that? And, if you are doing it, who wouldn't want to be recognised for doing so?
With a little help from your friends
There is a great deal of innovation and effective technology on the market, which, of course, plays a large part in helping you to use water intelligently. Irrigation systems are perhaps the most important, where pressure regulating stems can provide even distribution, water saving nozzles reduce the overall amount applied and advanced smart control systems inform applications, timings and rates.
Tips to improve your water resource management:
1. Keep a close eye on your consumption - knowing exactly how much you use, and where, can help in the assessment and targeting of specific areas for improvement
2. Keep records - monitor and record the rainfall you receive with a computerised weather station linked to your irrigation system. This will help you create a 'profit and loss' water budget based on precipitation and evapotranspiration rates - the most efficient way to irrigate and accurately matching the plant's requirements. This kind of data can also be found online alongside climate information, so consider an internet search for your location
3. Hand water when necessary - if you have any problem areas, such as high spots on your greens, hand watering will target these specifically, instead of switching the whole system on and irrigating areas unnecessarily
4. Regular visual inspection and testing for chemical and biological quality - ensure that your management activities don't degrade water quality, and invest in appropriate technologies to treat waste water from your facilities
5. Diversify your sources - move away from the use of mains supply and drinking water to irrigate the golf course. Could you harvest and store rainwater and run-off from impermeable surfaces like building roofs, roads and car parks? Could you recycle grey waste water or treated sewage effluent?
6. Utilise sustainable drainage techniques that maintain watersheds and the natural hydrological cycle - at the same time improving water quality by filtering pollutants, and also increasing the type and amount of vegetated habitats
7. Know where your water goes after leaving the site - what happens to it? Is it beneficial to the local community, or the native ecological biodiversity? Perhaps it could be discharged to a low lying wetland or water course, recycled back to the club, or even given back to the local authority
8. Understand your position in the catchment area and any specific local factors - are you in a floodplain, or higher up in the basin? Do you have high groundwater levels, or are you close to a supply of drinking water? Knowing these things will help your long-term planning
9. Ask for help - who could better help you understand and implement new water saving technologies? Consider asking the club's membership, local government, or consulting with a professional water auditor/surveyor
GEO is an international, not-for-profit, stakeholder funded organisation dedicated to helping the golf community embrace sustainable golf and provide practical solutions to issues of environmental, social and economic improvement.
GEO Certified™ is golf's ecolabel - the international mark of sustainability that golf courses and new developments can promote with absolute confidence, letting members, visitors and the wider community know that their golf club, renovation or development has met comprehensive sustainability criteria.
To find out more about GEO, or to put your golf club OnCourse™ for sustainability and the GEO Certified™ ecolabel, visit: http://www.golfenvironment.org
The Leaderboard - Four golf courses getting it right
Belas Clube de Campo, Portugal - Designed to take maximum advantage of rainfall, surface run-off and throughflow from irrigation cycles, Belas Clube de Campo, near Lisbon, diverts water back to the borehole fed lakes demonstrating a high rate of water reuse and an admirable attitude in preservation.
Indeed, they have a full time irrigation manager who has helped maintain a constant groundwater level and ensured that water quality remains unaffected. Using best practices in irrigation, and with accurate monitoring and recording techniques, their aim is to reduce consumption based on yearly objectives across the facility.
Broken Sound Golf Club, in Florida, has invested significantly to install a reclaimed water line diverted from the city of Boca Raton, which would otherwise dump this water into the Atlantic Ocean. Although the water is treated, the reefs off the coast are very sensitive to nutrients, and recycling the water in this way allows it to be naturally filtered even further before it enters the hydrological cycle.
Previously, the club took all its irrigation water from lakes fed by rainfall, run-off and local canal water pumped onto the site. They have also upgraded their pumphouse and computer system, and replaced 360 degree sprinklers with variable heads, showing that water conservation runs deep at this facility.
Golfpark Nuolen in Switzerland has taken just 2000 cubic metres from Lake Zurich in the past three years, from an abstraction licence of 1800 cubic metre per day. The reason behind this is due to the club's use of harvested water from drains, roofs, and drainage water that feeds the six lakes on the course. Snow melt and carefully planned drainage construction means that water consumption at Golfpark Nuolen is self supporting and very much sustainable.
Golfclub Zwolle in the Netherlands has an independent water storage system from the local district water board. Horizontal drainage feeds the surface water stores on the course, which are then filled up by a one-way valve from the bordering ditches and canals. The vegetation in and around the club's ponds acts as a biological filter of nutrients and pollutants from the incoming water, preventing it reaching the golf course. This concern for water quality proves that Golfclub Zwolle has a great understanding not only of water resource issues, but also the importance of its biodiversity to the larger ecosystem and ecological food chains.