The 800-Pound Gorilla in the Pond

What I have learned over the years being in the golf industry is some things never change. There is one constant that dominates our industry. The 800-pound gorilla that overshadows all we do. It dictates every aspect of how a golf course is maintained and the quality of the turf itself, especially here in the West. Well so far this year, the 800-pound gorilla has gained a lot of weight and is getting ready to potentially do damage to every course in the West. What horrible pest could this be to have such consequence? You all know what the gorilla is: WATER.

The drought in the West is breaking every record ever seen so far. California smashed a record going back as far as records have been kept. Arizona has had temperatures about 10 degrees above average for better than a month. Watching the X Games in Aspen on TV was shocking. No, not the 1260²s and the back flips, it was the background scenery. Yes, the barren mountains with no snow. That snow is essential to our water supplies in the West. So the Gorilla as become a consuming topic with everyone here. All water users are nervous about the year. Now that being said, I have seen some very wet springs that could bust this up real fast, so hope is not lost, just waning.

The water issues are taking the forefront of discussion as they have for over 30 years. Arizona has been the leader in these discussions as they have been very proactive in conservation regulations for all users including agriculture, golf and even land development and homeowners. This effort has given Arizona a very sustainable water program that can endure droughts like we are in today. California is not so proactive and will be scrambling to figure out how they will supply all the users impacted by this unusual weather event.

This impact will no doubt affect the golf industry in a negative way. It already has as so many facilities are over budget on their water bills. Budgets are strained enough without having to pump or buy more water than normal.

If the drought continues, there may not be water to use for some critical golf regions:

If the Rocky Mountains don’t get some relief, everyone in the West will feel the pinch as the snow melt is so essential to water supplies in six states.
Las Vegas will be impacted the most if lake levels continue to drop.
Even the Coachella Valley is talking about conservation practices for the area.
This is all new to them as their water supplies have been abundant for a long time. Congratulations and keep going.

On a brighter note, the 800-pound gorilla has a fondness for golf. Cash registers are full because the weather has been so good for golf. It has been a very mild winter and with so much bad weather in the East, the snowbirds are flocking and putting in some rounds. So as Bill Murray would say in Caddy Shack, “I got that going for me.” Unfortunately, the cash is all going back into buying water.

These discussions will not go away and we will all have to talk about how we can build a more sustainable water use program for all. My advice is to get involved and be proactive in your communities as Arizona was 30 years ago and still is today. For those of you who have been doing just that, keep up the good work. For those who haven’t, trust me, you will. You won’t have a choice.

Some things never change.


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