SCGA Public Affairs


Monday, June 13, 2022

It’s not worse for everybody, not yet anyway. And it’s never as bad in the Coachella Valley as it is virtually elsewhere in Southern California, although convincing Sacramento of that can sometimes be a losing proposition. But because we arrive at the same state water project shortage in 2022 as 2016, but with less in reserves in 2022 than 2016, it’s safe to conclude that the situation is indeed worse.

That is why the purchaser and distributer of the water that begins as snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has taken the unprecedented step of requiring six (6) major Southern California water providers and the cities they serve to reduce consumption by a rather healthy amount (roughly 35%) beginning June 1 or face onerous consequences – fines of $2,000 for every extra acre-foot of water that exceeds their monthly allocation limits.

Specifically, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) has targeted parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that rely heavily on the Sierra Snowpack for their needs. To wit, the following water providers/agencies/public utilities: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District and Three Valleys Municipal Water District — all in Los Angeles County — the Calleguas Municipal Water District in Ventura County and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency in San Bernardino County. Some of these providers are very dependent upon the state water project – e.g., Calleguas and Las Virgenes – while others like Los Angeles, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District have sources other than Northern imports – e.g., groundwater and recycled. Because MWD is allowing each provider to tailor its own means to MWD’s mandated conservation ends, the specific rules and protocols differ in each jurisdiction, albeit at least so far, each of them is taking care to treat ornamental and functional turf differently. That is, the same rules regarding outdoor irrigation that apply to residences and small businesses do not apply to what California Law terms “Large” or “Special Landscapes” – parks, sports fields, cemeteries, and golf courses.

That’s roughly 6 million of the 19 million customers in the MWD service area. The other 13 million in the service area and the customers beyond the MWD service area (e.g., Coachella Valley) are under a much looser statewide call for 10 – 20% savings.

No doubt, everyone has the same first thought about all this – 35 percent or 10-20 percent off of what? And many may have the same second thought: Are all actors to be treated the same whether they have reduced their water footprints in recent years or expanded them? These “thoughts” are particularly trenchant for golf facilities, many of which in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have taken myriad steps in recent years to reduce consumption – e.g., turf removal, substitution of warm for cool season grasses, elimination of overseeding, irrigation system replacement, weather stations/soil sensors, lake removal/relining, firm/fast conditions.

The good news for the golf community – if it’s appropriate to deem any of this “good” – is that most of it has been operating under some sort of budgeted allocation methodology per an “alternative means of compliance” protocol for some time – either on a de jure basis as in the huge area served by Los Angeles Water & Power or on a de facto basis as in much of the Calleguas service area where many of the 19 providers served by Calleguas allow golf courses to apply for variances based thereon. The City of Thousand Oaks, which serves Los Robles Greens GC and Sunset Hills CC, is a good example of the “variance” methodology.

Those seeking more detail about how Los Angeles’ “Alternative Means” protocol works can click here to read the most recent version (May 2022) of the program’s application. Please note that the 20% reduction that appears in it is the default reduction. The reduction applicable in the current Level 3 drought is 35%.

Of course, none of this is self-executing, even in Los Angeles, where that city’s Drought Contingency Plan/Conservation Ordinance prescribes a very well defined “alternative means of compliance” protocol that is to be applied to a longstanding (12 years) policy that clearly answers everyone’s “first thought” about 35% off of what. It’s 35% off a water budget calculated by using the “Maximum Allowable Water Allocation” (MAWA) scheme predicated upon very specific plant factors for turf and drought tolerant cover embedded in California’s codes (e.g., AB 1881 and the Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance).

Having written that, it has still fallen to a unified Los Angeles golf community to spell out in writing why the only course that makes sense post June 1 is to apply Los Angeles Water & Power’s longstanding policy to Los Angeles' extant law, which has the added advantage of informing the golf community of what it would need to do should the Mayor of Los Angeles deem that the circumstances that dictated his June 1 declaration of a “Level 3” drought require accelerating to a “Level 4” drought or worse. One of the positive outcomes of what at first seemed an unnecessary exercise has been the discovery of just how much the 31 golf courses within the Los Angeles service area have reduced their consumption since the “alternative means” protocol cum MAWA derived budget allocation scheme was implemented in 2010. Maybe that’s why in 2016 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) deemed what Los Angeles developed in 2010 a “best practice that ought to be emulated by others.” And that’s why jettisoning it in a bureaucratic panic would be folly. A law cum policy that incentivizes precisely what one is trying to achieve is the epitome of good public policy. A practice that does the opposite – incentivize greater water use in anticipation of being better able to absorb cutbacks – is the epitome of dumb.

Clarity and consistency – golf courses can adjust to just about anything if those two features are part of a regulatory scheme, no matter how severe. And while Level 3 doesn’t portend severity in Los Angeles, although it does presage hardship, Levels 4 and 5/6 are another matter – a “matter” totally in the hands of that city’s 4 million residents in the short run and Mother Nature in the longer run. A 4th or worse, a 5th year of what the last 3 have been in terms of precipitation, and that’s exactly where Southern California golf is headed. Those facilities without contingency plans in place to cope with that eventuality need to get about putting one together now. If nothing else club members and daily fee golfers need to be prepared for what may come.

SCGA and GCSAA have been working with allied partners and golf clubs/facilities in the immediately affected area (the 6 million MWD customers disproportionately dependent upon the state water project) to connect with water providers in achieving MWD’s conservation goals in manners consistent with sound agronomic practice and good long-term public policy. So far, so good. The facilities are resilient; there are advantages to having been down this road so many times. The providers are understanding – that is, as long as golf is quick to make them understand that golf’s goal is not obstruction, but rather collaboration in achieving necessary cutbacks.

The SCGA and USGA in conjunction with the GCSAA and the Southern California PGA Section are putting on a big “water summit” August 18 at Los Serranos CC in Chino Hills. Look for a formal announcement with details, including envisaged speakers/presenters, later this month. Much more about that soon.

To put this “summit” and all of the above in pictorial perspective, take a glance at all the red and orange in this chart of precipitation rankings from 1895 to the present.

# # # # # # # # # # #


SCGA Public Affairs was tasked at the beginning of 2021 to recruit a national group of Allied Golf Associations, municipal golf managers, golf course architects experienced in the public/municipal space, USGA Regional Affairs Directors, National Golf Foundation (NGF) Consulting Services, and key leaders in municipal golf to issue specific actionable recommendations to USGA Senior Staff as to how the USGA might effectuate certain key pivots in the USGA’s new strategic plan, among them: 1) Advocacy, 2) public/municipal golf, 3) community engagement, and 4) growth of the game. The Group met throughout 2021, performed considerable research cum fact-finding, and issued a 5 ½ page draft containing four (4) specific recommendations. Because the Group kept in very close communication with its advisee throughout the process (SCGA’s Director of Public Affairs has been around this particular block multiple times over the years), all four (4) of these recommendations were approved by USGA executive leadership, including new CEO Mike Whan in January.

Gluttons for detail can click here to read those recommendations. Those who do will be able to note that the USGA’s enthusiasm for diving into the advocacy realm has already exceeded the level suggested therein. [See below re AB 1910].

The resultant new “Group” has been assembled, and the final piece of those four (4) recommendations, hiring someone to oversee the work of the group and integrate its work product with the role envisaged for it in the USGA’s strategic plan, came to fruition May 31. That was Dr. Michael Cooper’s 1st day on the job. Dr. Cooper is well known and highly respected throughout the national golf community. The three from Southern California who were asked to be part of the resultant new Group – SCGA Board Members Azucena Maldonado and Jorge Badel, as well as SCGA Public Affairs Director Craig Kessler – know him well and have worked with him on other initiatives in the past. Dr. Cooper has embarked on a national listening tour to get fully up to speed on the broad diversity of the national public golf community.

This audience got a taste of this “strategic pivot” during the long AB 672/1910 campaign, when the USGA filed a strong letter of opposition to the bill and advertised it widely through social and other media. We anticipate much of value from this continuing “pivot” cum effort and will no doubt be reporting its progress in the months to come.

# # # # # # # # # # #

For those expecting something more about that long AB 672/1910 saga than the May 19 announcement of the bill’s final demise, two (2) items of note. First, the summer issue of the SCGA’s hard copy magazine FORE will carry our final take on it; hint – the biggest lesson we took away was that the success of the campaign was much more about SCGA’s rank and file members than it was about the political acumen of SCGA and its allied partners. Second, it’s time to move forward.

Archived Updates

Opposition to Assembly Bill 1910

Read More →

CGCOA Golf is Good Ambassador Program

Are you interested in becoming an advocate for golf in California? The CGCOA is seeking amateur golfers who are passionate about protecting the game of golf and promoting public policies that enable golf to flourish in California. Take the next step to becoming an advocate for golf by completing the attached Golf is Good Ambassador Application.

Read More →

FORE - Public Affairs

FORE - The magazine of the SCGA. Find archived Public Affairs articles on the website of the SCGA's award winning quarterly publication.

Read More →


Charles Dickens’ famous opening of “A Tale of Two Cities” comes to mind as a good descriptor of where California’s water situation and golf’s place in it stands after back-to-back record precipitation years: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...".

Read More →


Four Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion yesterday that seeks to crack down on what the motion describes as “black-market tee time brokers” who book and resell city golf course tee times for profit.

Read More →


When introduced by Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) February 16, AB 3192 contained a provision that would have banned the use of all nonorganic pesticides and fertilizers on golf resorts in California’s Coastal Zone.

Read More →


A cautionary tale from semi-rural Santa Barbara County to remind you that the pressure to repurpose golf courses is not just a phenomenon in California’s densely packed urban cores.

Read More →


The National Golf Course Owners Association’s (NGCOA) Harvey Silverman may have characterized the City of Los Angeles’ uncommonly quick reaction to intense media scrutiny (five separate Los Angeles Times stories including a Sunday lead editorial) of the depredations of tee time brokering with his quip in the organization’s “Golf Business Weekly” about the city having reacted “faster than fixing potholes.”

Read More →


Every year there seems to be one bill filed in one house of the California Legislature that keeps the California golf community up at night.

Read More →


Here's the difference this last week made, and it’s a difference not just in terms of the alacrity with which we can expect the major municipal golf systems to begin implementing mitigations, but also in terms of what the week means in terms of disabusing all notions of golf somehow being underutilized and golfers not as passionate about the object of their affection as others are about theirs.

Read More →