12% of U.S. courses irrigate with recycled water

Irrigation of golf courses with recycled water has not yet caught on in America. Only twelve percent of all golf facilities use recycled water. The number has not increased since 2005. On the contrary, after the share of recycled water had increased significantly by 2013, it decreased again by 25 per cent. This is according to the Water Use and Management Practices study. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) released it mid-August. According to the report, 55 percent of the water used in 2020 came from wells, lakes and ponds, thus the main supplier. According to the survey, the main reasons for not using recycled water were a lack of sources of wastewater (51 per cent), enough other water available (31 percent), or a lack of infrastructure to transport the recycled water (14 percent).

Recycled water becomes an issue during droughts

These data are of interest to Europe’s Gulf nations because increasing water shortages are fueling the discussion about the use of recycled water here as well. While this is already used more frequently in Spain, for example, this approach is unusual in continental and Northern Europe.

However, the content of the US study was not only the use of recycled water. Rather, the study was about the overall change in irrigation patterns on U.S. golf courses between 2005 and 2020. The scientific research was led by Dr Travis Shaddox, president of Bluegrass Art and Science LLC and Dr J. Bryan Unruh of the University of Florida. The National Golf Foundation accompanied it. A total of 14,145 golf facilities were surveyed as part of the study, with 1575 facilities participating.

U.S. sites reduce water consumption by 29.1

According to the report, U.S. golf facilities used about 2.1 billion cubic meters of water in 2020. This represents a 9.3 percent reduction in water use from 2013 and a 29.1 percent reduction from 2005. Calculated down to the average per plant, this still comes to around 82,000 m³ per plant on average.

In contrast to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, for example, the climate in the individual regions of the United States differs so greatly that this average value is only of limited significance when compared with European figures. The Southwest and Southeast regions of the U.S. alone consumed 58 percent of the total water.

Recycled water requires a lot of infrastructures

They are also the ones who consume much of the recycled water. After all, they account for 87 percent of total consumption. The study’s authors conclude “that getting recycled water at all can be a challenge because the infrastructure requirements are very specific and beyond a golf facility’s control. Nevertheless, where recycled water is available, golf facilities should feel encouraged to reach out to their local governments to see if recycled water is an option for their facilities as well.”

Comparability of the figures from the American study with European countries is not possible at present. There is no similar recent water study in any other country.