From the CEO’s Desk
How will California’s golf courses survive the next drought? The future is not pretty.
We are working with our counterpart, the Southern California Golf Association, to tackle what will be a crisis for our industry. Kevin Heaney, assistant executive director of the SCGA, and I have been traveling the state meeting with water lobbyists, water-focused public relations firms, public affairs consultants and environmentalists regarding future water access for California’s golf courses.
California experienced a significant drought in 1977 the state’s driest year in history that affected everyone. Many golf courses were close to losing all yes, all of their water. A scramble took place in the golf industry and a white paper was drafted detailing the economic impacts and consequences of such drastic measures, thus ensuring enough water was delivered to golf courses to keep greens alive. Courses using groundwater faired much better.
Since that drought there are ten million more people living in California. Per capita water consumption per person is up from 200 gallons per day to almost 230. There are tremendous new demands for environmental uses including the all-important San Francisco Bay Delta. The computer and biotechnology industries are also new and significant water users. The number of golf courses has grown from just under 300 in 1977 to a present day 912 (second to Florida with 1073).
Another drought in California is inevitable. The golf industry must develop a plan which highlights the economic and environmental benefits golf provides to our local communities. We need to educate decision makers and as many non-golfers as possible.
Secondly, we must embrace the environmental community and develop models of water-use efficiency models and promote the use of recycled water. We must work together with water agencies and be part of the solution.
In our efforts to date, there has been a real apathy in the industry. We cannot wait until the drought hits and then try to figure out what to do. We must act now and we must act fast.
When asked what action may be taken if there were a serious drought, a gentleman Kevin Heaney and I met with responded, “Don’t allow water to be added to swimming pools and cut the water to golf courses.”
Many courses have wells that use groundwater and have felt safe in the past. In time this safe feeling will diminish. After being passed by both Houses, the governor vetoed legislative bill SB820, a requirement to monitor the larger well water users, including golf courses.
California bill AB 2717 was introduced to create a water desalination task force to study opportunities for the use of seawater. This bill is still pending in the legislature. This is an issue that will not go away. People will not stand by and see their assets dry up while someone else has no restrictions.
The California Alliance for Golf (CAG) has been meeting for more than two years to orchestrate a plan to stave off the eventual reduction in water to golf courses. CAG is a statewide association of golf-industry personnel representing players, golf course owners and management, and manufacturers. Among its objectives, CAG is taking a proactive approach to protect the golf industry. It’s going to be difficult to get a handle on the issue of water, and the more of us that come together, the greater the opportunity for golf to position itself as an active participant in the solution of the state’s impending water crisis while maintaining the economic visibility and viability of the industry.
As a group, we need to develop a financial pool to hire professionals to help design a plan and a communication strategy to prevent golf courses from being severely water restricted.
Now is the time. Please get involved. If you are a water expert, politically connected, or have knowledge that may be beneficial to our cause, please let me know. I can be reached at (831) 625-4653 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I will continue to touch upon this issue in future editions of NCGA Golf.