Water Industry News

Water Crisis: Is The Future Of Golf Brown, Not Green?

As pressure continues to mount on freshwater resources around the world, driven by population growth, pollution, water mismanagement, urbanisation, climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, it’s more important now than ever for all industries and society at large to assess how water is used… even in the sporting world.


All forms of sport are likely to be affected by the changing climate and adaptations are sure to be necessary in the future in order to reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint of this particular sector.


Skiing, for example, is one of the biggest culprits with a significant ecological footprint of its own, when you take into account mobility (people travelling to different resorts), accommodation and slope care, with snow cannons becoming increasingly commonplace to top up the snowpack.


It takes around one million litres of water to cover a single hectare of ground with snow, which is clearly unsustainable as a long-term strategy if water resources are to be conserved.


Another particularly water-intensive sport, perhaps unsurprisingly, is golf. There are thousands of different courses all over the world, with billions of litres of water required every day to keep golf course lawns lovely and green.


Naturally, this level of water consumption can cause problems on a local level, particularly in places that are already facing issues with water stress and scarcity, so it seems that some other solution must be found in order to drive resource use right down.


Some ideas include using artificial turf, optimal use of automatic sprinklers or grass species that are less reliant on water… but the answer could potentially lie in removing all the greenery entirely, as is the case at the Naba Gninbolbo golf club in Burkina Faso, which was built in 1975 and has no green to speak of.


As the Guardian reports, this particular course started off as farmland but was later converted, with the traditional golfing lawn made from a mixture of sand and used motor oil. This makes the sand more compact and prevents it from being blown away by the wind, while protecting precious water resources for other uses.


President of the Burkinabe golf federation Salif Samake explained to the news source: “We use between 200 and 300 litres of water a day to keep the club running smoothly. Burkina is a Sahelian country, water is a scarce commodity [and] we cannot afford a club with grass. We want to play golf, but in our reality.”


As the Guardian observes, figures from NGO WaterAid West Africa show that just 47 per cent of the population in Burkina Faso has access to clean drinking water nearby.


Although it does rain between 700mm to 800mm of rain annually, storage infrastructure is insufficient, so women and children spend a portion of their day carrying water to and from the nearest well.


The club itself now has 60 players, with local young people employed as caddies. Mr Samake went on to say: “The club is situated on a hill. We have views of the city and coexist with the animals that sleep on the greens at night. We play with the earth, the dust, with the nature we have. We haven’t cut down a single tree.”


How can golf courses be more sustainable?


It may not be possible for every golf course to follow in the footsteps of Naba Gninbolbo, but the good news is that there is a lot that course operators can do to make their businesses more sustainable, particularly where water is concerned.


Firstly, preventing water pollution is very achievable by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides to keep lawns looking pristine and weed-free.


The issue with using chemical fertilisers is that they can leach into waterways through surface water runoff, which can increase the amount of nutrients in the water itself, affecting local biodiversity, water quality and aquatic species like fish and other invertebrates. As an alternative, organic or eco-friendly products could be used instead.


Another option for those increasingly concerned about how much water is being used to keep greens looking lush is to choose drought-resistant plants, grasses, sedges and rushes that actively work to conserve water, without requiring too much to flourish and grow.


There are even drought-tolerant turfgrass varieties available that could work well for golf courses, including the likes of Bermuda grass, bahia, buffalo grass, zoysia and St Augustine.


Moving away from planting, water recycling is one top strategy that many golf courses around the world are already making use of, with water taken from sewage systems, stormwater runoff and industrial wastewater.


This isn’t potable water but it is perfect for irrigation uses and it’s likely something that we’ll see golf courses use increasingly as time goes on and pressure on water resources continues to grow.


Rainwater harvesting can also be used to great effect, where rainwater is collected and stored before being filtered and reused instead of mains water. This can be utilised in a range of different ways, everything from landscape watering to toilets, laundry, sprinkler and cooling systems, so it could make a significant difference to your water footprint.


Before measures such as these can be implemented, however, it’s generally advisable to have a water audit of your site carried out so you can see how and where you’re using resources. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better able to identify which solutions would work best for you and your site.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can go about reducing your water footprint as a business, get in touch with the SwitchWaterSupplier.com team today.