Global water consumption is doubling every 20 years and water deficits are increasing. As an industry, golf's water footprint is significant, incorporating the irrigation of thousands of golf courses worldwide and the use of potable water in clubhouses, restaurants and real estate. It extends to the manufacturing of machinery, merchandise and equipment; fertilizer, pesticide, turf and seed production; as well as cements, concrete and other construction materials. The question is how does such an industry reduce its water use?

A blueprint for change

Given that water is perhaps the single greatest challenge to golf's sustainability, the sector has to continue to optimize its water consumption by increasing efficiency and utilizing innovative technologies. Water costs will rise; so acting decisively now will reap financial benefits for golf businesses everywhere.

Further research and development into new drought and disease resistant turfgrass, that can survive using low quality irrigation water is critical. In tandem the industry should adopt a low impact approach to design, construction and management. This may even have implications for the use of any turfgrass at all in certain regions.

Golf courses should contribute to the natural function of aquatic ecosystems and watersheds. They can help the water cycle by attenuating and naturally treating water, and allowing slow percolation into soil and aquifers, ultimately improving water quality.

Swales, ditches, wetlands, waterways and other sustainable drainage features can make a meaningful contribution to the natural replenishment, purification and re-cycling of water supplies.