Last week, David Latshaw and myself had the opportunity to attend the Colorado Basin Golf and Water Summit held in Las Vegas. A gathering of legislators, superintendents, researchers, water district stakeholders and industry vendors focused on the fate of the Colorado River and changes that need to be made to water consumption.
Golf play is at an all time high with junior golf being at its highest since 2006. The industry as a whole provides over 2 million jobs and raises over $4.6 billion for charities. However no water equals no golf.
The Colorado river supplies water to seven states, Mexico and Indian Reservations. There is 15 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River used each year in the United States. 7.5 million in the upper basin, 7.5 in the lower basin, and 1.5 million in Mexico. Totaling to roughly 16.5 million acre feet of water. However, long term production of the Colorado river is projected to be 9-11 million acre feet a year by mid-century.
Legislator Colby Pellegrino, General Manager of Resources for the Southern Nevada Water Conservation explained to the group that Nevada is only allotted 4% of the Colorado River and that 90% of their water is coming from lake Mead which is sitting at 33% capacity, an all time low. Las Vegas is the driest metro area in all of the United States, yet new legislation allowed them this past year to be at their lowest water use since 1993. New legislation includes golf courses being limited to 6.3 acre feet of water per acre of irrigated land, but come January 2024 that number drops to 4 acre feet of water or 0.13’’ of water a day. Other legislation includes non functional grass (ex. grass in medians and grass outside office buildings) to be banned by 2027, no new golf courses are to be built in Nevada, all new pools are limited to 600 sq ft surface area, and all new grass installation are limited to parks, schools, and cemeteries. Nevada does however offer rebate programs for turf reduction.
Many superintendents, directors of agronomy, and course owners were able to talk about the new technologies and tactics they have been and are implementing on their own courses to meet the new 4 acre feet of water limit. These include the use of wetting agents, irrigation system audits, using % of ET to water rather than timed, converting to more drought tolerant cultivars, working to change the golfers green color expectations, stop overseeding, switching from PVC to HDPE pipes, in ground sensors, and satellite imagery, as well as many others.
A panel of researchers, including Dr. James Baird, Dr. Bernd Leinauer, Dr. Tony Koski talked to the group about research being done at their respective universities and how this knowledge can be used to make adjustments to current courses and their watering programs. Dr. James Baird talked about his work with wetting agents and turfgrass breeding. He explained that his research indicated a 20-30% water saving with wetting agent applications and explained that we, Aqua Aid Solutions, have had research showing 35% water saving with PBS 150. Wetting agent applications are an integral part of any water management program and provide more efficient water use allowing for water savings.
Contributed by Emma Seward, 2023 AQUA AID Solutions Mentor Recipient & Research Assistant