By Ronnie Miles, NGCOA Director of Advocacy
As with all plants and animals, water is the lifeblood of a golf course. Access to water is essential to the golf industry. Whether you rely on a well or municipality-supplied water, both depend on Mother Nature for replenishment.
Many parts of our country have experienced some form of drought in the past, but none like what our western states are experiencing, especially in the Southwest. The Colorado River is the predominant water source for most western states. The Colorado basin region includes the upper basin, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. The lower basin consists of California, Arizona and Nevada. Fortunately, winter 2022/2023 saw record-breaking snowfall through the region. This greatly benefited California and much of the upper basin while providing hopeful relief for Arizona and Nevada.
Was this weather pattern a sign of a return to normal weather conditions? Whether you believe this is the result of climate change or historical weather norms, the reality is the region must reduce its water consumption because, based on the duration of the drought conditions, it will take several years of similar weather conditions for lakes and the underlying water table to rise to the level to support the region’s human and economic demands fully.
States in the Lower Colorado Basin, Arizona, California, and Nevada, recently agreed to conserve at least 3 million-acre-feet of system water through the end of 2026. According to a report by the SCGA Public Affairs office, “the precise details of that consensus – the amount of allocation ceded by each state and each agency within each state – remain to be worked out, but the outlines are clear for Southern California. The State Water Project allocation may be 100% for the first time in years, but we’ll be losing some of our Colorado River water between now and 2026, after which we may well lose even more. Given that golf’s portion of that loss will not be part of the “compensated” savings envisaged through federal largesse – you can fallow farmland; you can’t fallow golf courses – the need to keep reducing the game’s water footprint promises to become just that much more acute, as does the need for the game to make clear to policymakers that golf understands this fact to its very core”.
So what does this mean for golf courses in the Lower Basin? What impact will it have on golf courses in the Upper Basin States? There are more questions than answers at this point. To help our industry better understand this issue's current and future state, the golf industry is coming together to host a one-day event providing insight into this situation and answers to some of these questions. The event is titled the Colorado Basin Golf & Water Summit. The Summit’s educational program, scheduled for October 12 in Las Vegas, will provide historical and forward-looking research, data, perspectives and more related to golf course water usage. Follow NGCOA.org and NGCOA’s social media outlets for upcoming registration information on this event.
Speakers will include key leaders within the state water management industry, leading industry experts from the USGA, GCSAA, and other industry experts sharing the latest technology and agronomic best practices. Included will be updates from top university research centers and industry members sharing their stories of the changes they have made and continue to make at their golf courses.
While this event is targeting golf industry leaders and industry professionals from Western states, the information and best practices shared can have great benefit across our industry. Conserving and promoting clean water is something we all must address.