Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Future of Golf Course Architecture in Canada – Part 4 - The Issue of Water

















Twenty years ago, the number one question was do you have enough money to build a golf course. Ten years later it became is there enough land left after the environmentally sensitive areas are delineated. The most common question now is do you have a reliable source of water.

To give you some perspective, Calgary is awash with money but the Bow River in Calgary has no water licenses available. It’s not hard to understand why there has only been limited building of new courses throughout the Bow Valley despite the need for golf. Here in Ontario it gets harder each year to get water taking permits. In a candid conversation with a member of one of the Conservation Authorities I was told, “We have water issues – golf courses and farmers are seen as big users. Right now it’s more politically popular to get golf courses to cut their usage first – once that’s done we’ll go after the farmers.” The Ministry on the Environment has often hinted that they may stop issuing permits for wells for golf courses. Water is the number one issue in golf.

The 10th at Copper Creek with main irrigaton pond












Most new courses have been built to minimize the impact of their water taking. They can only use the excess water from the river they’re on during peak flow periods – the rest of the flow is unavailable for use. What that means is taking water from rivers and streams only takes place during spring run and the occasional storm large enough to exceed certain volumes. The golf courses have had to build massive storage ponds that they fill when water becomes available and then supplement that with whatever run-off they can collect. Existing courses are now being asked to work off the same system and those that don’t probably will down the road.

But what about Grey Water you ask. While the available resource is enticing for everyone involved you also have to consider that Grey Water is essentially the water left over from washing dishes, clothes and taking showers. It’s an interesting source unless the levels of soap or salt are high and then it weakens turfgrass with repeated use. Imagine that the more you use the thirstier the plant will become until you get natural rain – add in the fact that salts take up nutrients and you can see why turf can easily decline in this environment. There are more than a few famous Canadian courses with “bad” water where the turf is always under stress – and so is the superintendent.

The 1st at Copper Creek and the massive storage pond












So getting to the future - I think it’s reasonable to look forward and see a future where a new course must supply all its own irrigation through the collection of rainwater and snow melt. We have an example with Copper Creek which can store around 20 million gallons. The drainage network collects 75% of the water that falls onto the site and channels it into the storage ponds. The water is moved around using a combination of pipes and pumps mainly to avoid large fluctuations in the ponds. Supplementing is limited to high peak flows on the Humber but I’m quite convinced they could survive without it although the ponds would likely look a bit empty at times.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ian, I saw in the Midwest Super's that there is a new bill before the Illinois legis. that proposes to ban all phosphorous use for turf grass (except for establishment) in order to protect water supplies. You are right, water continues in one form or another to impact the golf industry.

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