This is part 4 of a 6-part series on golf course water use. Read Part 3.
Question 4: What is our plan for dealing with drought and mandatory water cutbacks?
Dealing with drought is a persistent reality in some parts of the country. For others, a lack of rain for six to eight weeks can deplete reservoirs and trigger water restrictions. The best time to plan for an emergency is when you are not in an emergency so that the situation can be analyzed rationally.
Emergency water ordinances are typically written to apply broadly to all customers, usually in the form of a percentage cutback based on a baseline year. A prudent exercise for superintendents is to determine in advance how and where water will be reduced if there is a 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% or more water cutback. While it may seem easy to reduce the run time of all sprinklers by the mandated percentage, this may end up damaging sensitive parts of the golf course (e.g. greens) more than non-critical areas (e.g. rough). Making targeted reductions to specific areas can end up achieving the desired goal while preserving playing quality in critical areas.
For example, the rough comprises approximately 50% to 75% of the acreage of a typical golf course and offers the biggest opportunity to cut back water without compromising the primary playing areas—greens, tees and fairways. Irrigation in other non-essential turf areas can be cut back or eliminated, such as the driving range landing zone, to save additional water without impacting playability.
Signs and color-coded maps are good ways to communicate to golfers what to expect when a mandatory water restriction is imposed.
The USGA article, Developing a Drought Emergency Plan, provides a step-by-step process for developing such a plan.