Golf’s water use back in the crosshairs of regulatory and environmental community

Epic drought shaping up to be one of the worst in state history

By: Jeff Jensen | Field Staff, Southwest Region

Golf Course Superintendents Association of America


On May 10, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in 41 of California’s 58 counties. The proclamation eases water quality and environmental regulations and allows state regulators to move water where it is needed most. It does not implement any mandatory water-use reductions at the state level. Additionally, the proclamation excludes most of Southern California, which is supplied by federal and state water systems and does not rely on natural precipitation as much as the northern portion of the state.

However, as we learned from the last drought that ended in 2016, regulations can change quickly. While no statewide restrictions are in place, we have seen local water suppliers starting to enforce mandatory restrictions as well as time/day-of-the-week restrictions on golf facilities. While the golf industry can implement drought plans to effectively deal with water cutbacks, it is crucial that we maintain control of when and where golf courses can use that available water.

Below you will find links to two documents. The first is a talking points document that you can use to discuss golf course water use with regulators, media, golfers and community members. It discusses the game’s conservation efforts, golf’s economic impact, its overall water use in the state and provides a number of resources for additional information.

Click here to download or review talking points document

The second document is aimed at regulators and discusses the inefficiency of time/day restrictions on outdoor irrigation. This document will assist you in working with your regulators on exploring various “Alternative Means of Compliance” that still allow them to reach their conservation goals but protect golf courses from onerous time/day restrictions.

Click here to download or review the time/day restrictions information

For the present, drought restrictions will be implemented at the local and regional level, and it is crucial that courses get in front of impending restrictions by meeting with your local water agency. Whether you are a single facility or work with nearby facilities who are under the same agency, take the time to reach out and establish a relationship with these individuals as it will be beneficial to the future of your course.  The best time to start was yesterday.  The next best time is now.

Jeff Jensen has served as the GCSAA Southwest Field Staff Representative since 2012 covering Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.  Jeff’s responsibilities include serving as a liaison between GCSAA and its affiliated chapters, assisting chapters with developing and implementing best practices, expanding the superintendent’s role as being a leader in the golf community and government relations and advocacy. Contact Jeff Jensen,

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