GCSAA survey reveals water usage at golf courses reduced over a 15-year period

By |  July 28, 2022 0 Comments

According to a survey conducted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), golf courses in the U.S. used 29 percent less water in 2020 than in 2005. The GCSAA Foundation funded the 2021 survey as part of its Golf Course Environmental Profile program, which began in 2005.

The report found that U.S. golf facilities applied approximately 1.68 million acre-feet of water in 2020, a 29 percent reduction since 2005. Two-thirds of the reduction was likely a result of operational golf facilities applying water more efficiently.

Scientists Travis Shaddox, Ph.D., from Bluegrass Art and Science and J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., from the University of Florida, collected and independently analyzed the survey results from nearly 1,600 golf course superintendents. The National Golf Foundation (NGF) published the findings for peer review before making the information public.

“Data from the 2021 water use benchmarking survey show that golf course superintendents continue to reduce water use at their facilities. The survey results indicate a 9 percent reduction in applied water since 2013, totaling a 29 percent reduction since the inaugural survey was conducted,” Unruh said. “Similarly, the median acre-feet per acre, a measure of water use efficiency, has improved by 23 percent since 2005.”

According to the report, the most common sources of water were wells (32 percent) and lakes and ponds (23 percent).  In 2020, less water was applied to the courses than in 2005, except for recycled water, which accounted for 21 percent of the water used.

Golf course superintendents have also increased the use of best management practices (BMPs) that can lead to reductions in water usage. BMPs such as keeping turf drier, pruning tree roots, changing to a more drought-tolerant turfgrass, mulching landscape beds and increasing no-mow acres were significantly associated with reductions in applied water.

“Golf course superintendents are responsible stewards of water resources, and the latest national survey results demonstrate that,” Rhett Evans, CEO of the GCSAA, said. “Superintendents are committed to efficient water management and have implemented evidence-based best management practices that result in reduced water use. All golf facilities should maintain a BMP manual and strive for continuous improvement as water management plans are an important aspect of BMPs and overall environmental sustainability.”

As part of the third series of its Golf Course Environmental Profile program, GCSAA will publish two additional national surveys related to golf course management over the next two years.

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