Even 'Green' Golf Courses Waste Water

It will come as no surprise to hear that golf courses are not particularly sustainable. In addition to taking up a large amount of resources and real estate that could be put to more productive or even more ecosystem-beneficial uses, golf courses can often be found in already water-stressed areas, adding insult to injury, from an environmental standpoint.

Of course, some golf course owners and operators are working on adding a sustainability component to their practices, whether that's reducing pesticides, planting more native or local plants off the fairways and greens, or recycling the water used for irrigation.

Unfortunately, even some of those well intended projects can backfire. According to research out of the Canary Islands, a "responsibly managed" golf course still used 83 percent more water to irrigate its plants than was necessary.

Researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria have looked at water use over the last 25 years at the Royal Golf Club of Las Palmas and found signs that water overuse was rampant.

"Excessive amounts of water are used, and this cannot be justified from any perspective", María del Pino Palacios Díaz, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Department of Animal Pathology, Animal Production and Food Science and Technology at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, said in a press release.

Although this research is focused on just one golf course, Palacios Díaz said the results could be extrapolated "to others in semi-arid or arid areas that are irrigated using water from urban or marine sources, and with similar soil characteristics."

Reclaiming water for irrigating golf courses is becoming commonplace, with some areas denying permits for new courses if they won't use reclaimed water. In Las Palmas, the water used for irrigation is desalinated, used by the public, then treated and desalinated again.

In addition to using excess water, all these treatments of the water used for irrigation can have a negative impact on the soil, with low-salinity water reducing the structural stability of the soil, and thereby reducing its fertility.

These effects compound over the long term, and are doubly compounded by using excess water to irrigate the golf course.

Palacios Díaz calls for golf courses to more precisely adjust the amount and frequency of water used for irrigation and adapt the species of plants used on the golf course as key steps to making water use more sustainable on golf courses.

Photo CC-licensed by DanPerry.com.