Wednesday, April 15, 2015

California addresses irrigation timing restrictions

The California golf industry understands the magnitude of the state’s current water crisis and our facilities fully intend to cooperate with Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order issued April 1, 2015.  However, day and time of the week restrictions on irrigation are an ineffective way to meet conservation goals and obtain the most out of the limited water that is available. 

Golf industry water conservation task forces have been formed throughout California in response to time and day of the week restrictions that were unworkable for the golf industry. These task forces developed protocols to sell the value of allowing “large landscapes” to meet water conservation mandates in a manner consistent with sound business practices. These practices would allow golf courses, parks and cemeteries to reduce consumption while retaining 100 percent control over irrigation practices – an “alternative means” of complying without being restricted to watering only on certain days of the week and only during certain hours of those days. In return for the easing of restrictions, participating large landscapes would be required to achieve greater water use reduction (typically 5 percent) than other water users. 

Why are day of the week and time restrictions inefficient?

  • Extreme temperatures, humidity and high winds affect irrigation requirements and superintendents will be forced to ineffectively use water if day of the week and time restrictions are in place when those conditions are present. 
  • With day of the week and time restrictions, superintendents may not be able to fully take advantage of water savings that arise from precipitation events or cooling temperatures. With such restrictions, you cannot risk missing a watering day even though weather forecasts may call for a chance of rain or a cooling trend in the next 12-48 hour period. 
  • Golf courses and other large landscapes may be forced to extend irrigation operations and operate pumps outside of “off peak” energy conservation windows currently in place by many California energy providers, placing an additional stress on the electrical grid.
  • With a reduced watering window, golf courses and other large landscapes, in some instances, may apply more water than needed on the prescribed days creating more potential for turfgrass disease and subsequent pesticide applications that would otherwise be unnecessary if water could be more judiciously managed.
  • The use of advanced technology, including state-of-the-art irrigation systems, mobile sensing technology and soil moisture meters, allow superintendents to determine exactly when, where and how much water is needed. The water needs of the turf will often not correlate with prescribed water schedules, thereby making those irrigation cycles less efficient or forcing the superintendent to irrigate more heavily than otherwise required. 
  • By not being able to hand water with hoses due to time-of-day restrictions, superintendents will be forced to apply additional irrigation to the entire putting green surface, as opposed to spot treating small areas in need of supplemental irrigation.  
Governor Brown’s most recent mandate does not prohibit the use of alternative strategies to achieve requisite conservation requirements and the golf industry urges water providers to explore various alternative means of compliance (AMC) documents that have achieved desired or greater than desired results across the state on golf courses and other large landscapes. If your facility is interested in viewing an AMC document, please contact me at 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

California’s allied golf associations convene for inaugural Day at The Capitol

The following is a guest blog from California Golf Course Owners Association and Golf Course Superintendents Association of Northern California Executive Director Marc Connerly.  Thank you, Mark, for your insight and representation in Sacramento.

On March 24, representatives from California’s allied golf associations convened at the state capitol for the golf industry’s first “Day at The Capitol.” The day was, by all accounts, a resounding success, and an important step towards placing our industry in a favorable light under the dome in Sacramento.

First, a big debt of gratitude to CAG legislative advocate Tony Rice for putting the event together. Tony arranged a total of eight meetings with legislators, legislative staff, key committee staff, as well as executive branch staff, and kept our group on schedule and on point.

In attendance were CAG President and Northern California PGA Executive Director Chris Thomas, CGCOA Past President Steve Plummer, NCGA Executive Director Vaughn Kezirian, California GCSA Board Member Jim Ferrin, California Turfgrass and Landscape Foundation CEO Bruce Williams, CAG Board Member and Doctor’s Orders: Play Golf Founder Emmy Moore-Minister, NCGA Board Member Tom Bone, and I.  SCGA Governmental Affairs Director Craig Kessler became ill in the middle of the night prior to the event and was sincerely missed, but certainly deserves credit for his role in planning the event.

The contingent met with assembly members Ian Calderon and Phil Ting, as well as staff for assembly members Marc Levine, Mike Gatto, and Jimmy Gomez; staff for the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance; a senior adviser on energy and environmental issues; and a senior adviser to Governor Brown.

As one would expect, the majority of the discussion focused on water, with golf industry representatives taking turns focusing the discussion around several major points:
  • Golf courses, combined with parks  and other large landscapes, use approximately 1 pecent of the state’s water (in contrast to roughly 80 percent usage by agriculture)
  • Approximately 33 percent of all courses in the state run on recycled water, and it is our goal for 100 percent to be on recycled, eventually
  • The primary obstacle to increased use of recycled water is lack of infrastructure
  • 70-80 percent of courses are public, not private
  • Golf contributes $13.3 billion to the state’s economy
  • Golf employs more than 128,000 workers in California
  • The industry can point to examples of exceptional environmental stewardship, including 30 percent reduction in turf and installation of a high-efficiency, computer-controlled  irrigation system at Poppy Hills
  • Turf provides an excellent natural water filtration system
  • More Latinos and women are being introduced to golf
  • FootGolf is bringing soccer and golf together, increasing utilization of golf courses, and introducing new people to the courses
The lone negative on an otherwise entirely positive day was the news from Kip Lipper that red tape is preventing the distribution of bond money for recycling projects until late 2016 because the guidelines for said funding are encountering delays in publication by the regulatory entities.

Finally, a couple of unexpected surprises were presented. First, during a discussion on the industry’s preliminary efforts to form a self-funded California Golf Commission, John Scribner, chief of staff for Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, offered to provide draft language for the bill that would be necessary to authorize the commission.  While he could not commit the assemblyman to authoring the bill, the gesture was a necessary and welcome step in the process.

Second, Assemblyman Phil Ting indicated that he has authored AB 945, which will exempt all electric vehicle sales from sales tax until 2020, including those golf carts that meet the definition.

All in all, it was a very informative and uplifting day for golf in California, and hopefully the first of many.

California golf leaders gather on the steps of the Capitol Building in Sacramento after a busy day of meetings with legislative leaders. (L to R-Back Row) Steve Plummer, CGCS, CGCOA; Marc Connerly, GCSANC & CGCOA; Vaughn Kezirian, NCGA; Chris Thomas, PGA (L to R-Front Row) Emmy Moore Minister, Women's Golf & NCGRA; Bruce Williams, CGCS, CTLF; and Jim Ferrin, CGCS, CCGCSA. Photo Credit:  Emmy Moore Minister.