The Golf Industries Role in Water Conservation

When considering the worlds water shortages, we often conjure up images of Arizona, Nevada, Alberta, Australia, or even Dubai. But water issues have surfaced in regions such as Florida, Georgia, Ontario or even Spain, that have never before had water availability concerns.

When we talk about “more or less” water we’re not talking about the total amount available. We’re talking about the amount of usable water we have access to when we need it. Water can neither be created nor destroyed. Each time we use or treat water it is being changed, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. We can always clean water but we can’t return it to its previous state.
The Image of Golf and Water Use

Water issues are image issues, and the general public seems to think golf course water use is a terrible waste of a valuable natural resource. Golf Digest’s Publications survey, Golf and the Environment 2008 noted that two issues remain to plague public perception of the golf industry; water and pesticide use. Over half (56%) of respondents believe too much water is used by golf courses. Nearly three out of four (74%) remarked that golf should be more “Environmentally Friendly”. In the same survey when just golfers where asked about government environmental regulation on the golf courses two out of three (71%) favored the measure. These facts point to golf’s perceived over-use of Americas shared natural resources.

The effort and ability to proactively educate and set a good example to the non-golfing public should be paramount in protecting the golf courses our memberships enjoy so much. An irrigation audit is an indisputable way to express your club’s commitment to the environment. By identifying and correcting water-use inefficiencies the club will be saving money as well as contributing to safeguard one of our most valuable resources. The cost of an irrigation audit and the recommended repairs will typically pay for itself within three years and save thousands of gallons or water. This true life case study points out some amazing facts:

An irrigation audit was preformed at a Mid-Western 18-hole private club. In the audit it was recommended to retro-fit with new nozzles, level, and align sprinkler heads. This procedure increased Distribution Uniformity from 60% to 70%.

Based on Turfgrass areas that require an average of 15.6 inches of water per year the superintendent needed to apply 20.59 inches to be able to supply that turf with the needed 15.6 inches of water because of inefficiencies. If irrigation system uniformity can be increased only by 10% the superintendent will only have to apply 19 inches of water per year. It requires 27,154 gallons of water to cover one acre with one inch. The following example is amazing:

Plant Water Req.
Uniformity (DULQ)
Irrigation Water Req.
Gal. Per Acre Inch
Irrigated Acres
Total Gallons Per Year
15.6 in / Year
20.59 in. / Year
100 Acres
15.6 in / Year
19.03 in. / Year
100 Acres


Furthermore, if this golf course must purchase water for irrigation, here is an example of water purchase savings. Let’s assume that water is billed per unit, with a unit consisting of 1000 gallons. Divide 4.2 million gallons by 1000, the product is 4,236 units. At $1.40 per unit, a 10% increase in efficiency would yield a yearly savings of $5,930.40.

The savings does not stop at water alone, if the pump station operates at 1000 gallons per minute, not pumping 4.24 million gallons of water would translate to a yearly hourly savings of 70 hours. With pump station average life expectancy of 15 years, that’s a savings of 1050 hours, that savings is near 132 days of pump station operation.

The cost savings alone should be justification enough to audit your golf course irrigation system, but there is the most important reason, it’s the right thing to do. By being a wise consumer of water, you as a responsible manager of our resources telegraph a message to government and your community that golf cares about our valuable resources. If golf as an industry and a community professes to be stewards of the environment, our stewardship should begin by wisely using our limited resources to the best of our ability. It's whats being a Turfhugger is all about!