By: Craig Kessler, Special to The Desert Sun
Three years of regular meetings between the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and the valley golf industry have produced mixed results.
On one hand some two dozen turf removal programs are complete or in process; water features have been relined and in some cases removed; overseeding practices are changing; canal water is being substituted for groundwater at a record clip; best conservation practices are fast becoming a way of life; and the industry’s various moving parts are increasingly moving together to permanently reduce the industry’s water footprint by the 10 percent factor called for in the Coachella Valley Water Management Plan by 2020.
On the other hand The Desert Sun’s Ian James reported last summer that during the 2015-16 drought emergency period the industry reduced its 2013 usage by 8 percent as residents reduced their consumption close to 25 percent. Golf was better than other large commercial users but not as good as residents and not yet good enough to meet the CV Water Management Plan’s 2020 goal.
I chair those regular meetings between CVWD and the golf industry, but unlike most of those who participate in them on a monthly basis, I am also involved in water conservation efforts in the rest of Southern California – efforts that are just as focused and intense as those here in the valley. And I am often asked why the industry has moved faster and more effectively to reduce its water footprint in those areas than here.
For starters, it’s harder to reduce water consumption in a desert. It’s harder to reduce turf. What grows without irrigation in a coastal zone is a large and easily manageable palette; what grows without irrigation in a harsh desert involves something called blow sand for a reason. In addition, the economy of this most concentrated golf mecca in the nation is dependent upon satisfying the desire of visitors from northern climates for wall-to-wall green in the dead of winter; take the slightest bit of that away and the fear is they might decide to winter in another corner of the Sun Belt.
In the coastal zones public utilities and water agencies are empowered by state law to create and enforce budget allocation schemes for “Large Landscapes” such as golf courses – gentle enforcement, but enforcement nonetheless. In addition, those utilities and agencies are required by Proposition 218 to price the water they sell per the actual cost of purchase and delivery, which is many multiples of parallel costs in the Coachella Valley. What in this valley would be a foolish investment based upon standard return-on-investment is a wise one in coastal areas.
An obvious question: Without enforceable budgets, high costs, and the other consumption disincentives prevalent in the coastal areas, why is the valley golf industry working so diligently to accommodate the goals of the CV Water Management Plan?
The simple answer: From the Groundwater Sustainability Act to the governor’s latest Executive Order to make permanent mandates that were “temporary” during the recent drought emergency, all signals greater Sacramento control over local water management matters. If the golf industry doesn’t use the next 4 years to come into voluntary compliance with the local water agencies’ plan to manage the aquifer, Sacramento will intervene to do it for us.
Read the article here.