When we counseled “concern, not panic” regarding recent headlines about water allocation curtailments, we didn’t mean to diminish the seriousness of the moment; we meant only to assuage the many of you who read those headlines and concluded that golf courses in certain areas of the Southland, most particularly Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley, and parts of the San Gabriel Valley, would be restricted to irrigating one day a week come June 1.
Irrigating once per week in a hot and dry summer is tantamount to death for a golf course. The biology of turf is what it is. Residences and businesses can rip out turf in favor of California friendly drought tolerant palettes, but while golf can be played on less turf, it cannot be played on something other than turf. Parks, sports fields, and cemeteries fit the same mold, and that is why along with golf courses, they are routinely treated differently than ornamental or non-functional turf.
“Treated differently” doesn’t mean given carte blanche in a drought. It still means having to curtail water consumption, but it means curtailing consumption in ways more creative than day-of-week/time-of-day, one-size-fits-all methods. It means keeping 100% control over times and days of application while curtailing consumption – in other words cutting back in ways consistent with maintaining core functionality.
In those places where “golf and water task forces” that work directly with water providers have continued to meet regularly – e.g., Coachella Valley – SCGA is working with its allied partners to beef them up. In those places where such task forces have gone on hiatus since 2016 – e.g., Los Angeles – SCGA is working with its allied partners to reassemble and revitalize them.
We’re getting ready by getting in front of events. The ride promises to be bumpy this year, and golf has proven that it is well equipped to handle “bumpy.” But do consider what next year or the year after might portend if the next two precipitation years look anything like the last three. “Bumpy” will hardly suffice to describe that ride. But it’s something to begin contemplating now. Hope for better weather but begin planning for more of the same.
And under the heading, something to consider in the much longer term, take careful note of Metropolitan Water District General Manager Adel Hagekhalil’s comment in the Los Angeles Times last week about the critical need for “real investments in recycled water, real investments in storm water capture, real investments in storage. . . these are critical; we can’t conserve our way out of this.” For the golf community the question going forward isn’t whether those expensive infrastructure projects will be funded; it’s only a question of how they are going to be paid for. That’s why we were warm toward the mechanism that Los Angeles County’s Measure “W” on the 2020 ballot sanctioned – a parcel fee attaching only to that portion of a property that is non-permeable with credits for discharge permits. The drafters couldn’t have devised a more equitable, fact-based way for golf’s participation in the funding. Nonetheless, this is another cost factor that the game needs to embed into its longer-term business strategy.
But until those new storage mechanisms are in place, conservation remains the only effective tool to deal with drought.
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Speaking of the Coachella Valley, home to 120 golf courses, and “planning for more of the same,” the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) is initiating a Colorado River Water (CRW) Conservation Program for all of its canal customers – those that draw raw water from the Colorado River in lieu of pumping from the aquifer. Twenty-six (26) golf courses are among those customers.
The fact that CVWD is rolling this program out should inform desert golf courses that have become complacent that the time for complacency has passed. The Colorado River Basin has been experiencing historic drought conditions for over 20 years, during which time system storage has decreased from 95% full in 2000 to less than 35% today. CVWD, which has long resisted any discussion of curtailing the generous allocation accorded it by various federal compacts over the years, has been actively discussing with other Basin States how to do just that. If the Colorado River is to continue to be a reliable source for the states that have long possessed more allocations than there is water to allocate, there is no other choice.
As an initial step, CVWD is soliciting interest for a voluntary, temporary, and compensated water conservation program for canal water users that can demonstrate a reduction in Colorado River water use for 2022 and 2023. Although this program will need to be formally approved by the CVWD Board, it is envisioned that participants will be incentivized $200/acre-feet (net and funded by external agencies) based on water conserved against their historical water use over the most recent 5 – year period, and the Irrigation Water Availability Assessment (IWAA) will be waived during the participation period.
The program is anticipated to start on October 1, 2022, and end on December 31, 2023 (program may be extended subject to further discussion with funding partners). For information about the program one can:
No doubt we’ll be sharing more about such new incentive programs in the coming weeks and months. CVWD is contemplating more of them as we write these words, many of which will be discussed at the bimonthly meetings of the CVWD Golf & Water Task Force. Anyone interested in perhaps participating in this particular task force can contact either of us via E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected].
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 →
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In light of the Lower Basin states’ conservation proposal, the Biden Administration has announced that it is temporarily withdrawing the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) published last month so that it can fully analyze the effects of the proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).Read More →
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A glance at the front page of Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times tells you all you need to know about where California stands with respect to water.Read More →