Would your club be better off with a borehole?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 15, 2012 13:29

Would your club be better off with a borehole?

Golf courses need water; in light of the recent hosepipe ban (in a time when rainfall broke records in some areas) what can facilities do to combat / manage the effect the weather has on their courses? Can they plan to ensure they don’t fall foul to nature’s tempestuous and sometimes long-term mood swings? Can this plan go further than just providing a sufficient water supply and offer savings to a club over the longer term?

Is there a solution available that can save money in normal circumstances and help to minimise the risk of this potentially damaging situation having an adverse effect when it occurs?

Boreholes are the subject of great debate in the industry. A borehole is a term used to describe a shaft created in the ground either vertically or horizontally. But what use is a borehole to a golf course? If it adds benefit then what does it cost? Is it the only option? Is it the best option? How does it work?

The British and International  Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) reported in May 2012 that many clubs were restricted from using mains water and had to lobby to try to gain an exemption for necessary course maintenance.

A borehole can provide an essential and consistent water supply to a golf course to minimise the reliance on mains water and in some circumstances remove it. It can also be used as an emergency back up in times of drought, something increasingly common over the last few years.

Figures on water usage vary widely; many courses use less than 20 cubes per day and only water greens, some use 75 cubes and water more, including tee boxes and fairways.

Arguments exist to support both approaches. Measuring what you use is key to deciding on how much benefit can be gained from installing a borehole.

Boreholes are typically 50 to 60 metres deep. They can legally (without a licence) be used to extract 20 cubes per day (one cube is 220 gallons). If more is required a licence must be applied for from the local authority. South Coast Water stated that “20 tonnes is a lot of water and, to put that into perspective, a dairy farmer with 400 cattle will use less than 20 tonnes under normal conditions. A family of four use about half a tonne per day.”

Derek Hildebrandt heads up Sonic Waterwell and Geothermal Solutions. His team has over 25 years of drilling and geotechnical experience, and operates nationwide from offices in Runcorn, London and Glasgow. Sonic is well placed to offer advice and provision, and has seen its business grow steadily, specifically in the south east of the country as many private sports’ venues (golf courses, but also cricket grounds, polo grounds, tennis clubs and so on) realise that the cost of inaction leading to lack of water could be devastating. “Our niche is our team’s extensive experience of carrying this process out and that we have specialised plant and equipment that drill deep – many reserves at 50 to 60 metres are drying up – we can offer security by getting right down more than 100 metres to assure consistent supply,” he said. “We have been brought in many times by venues whose previous boreholes have dried up.”

One of Sonics’ clients recouped the cost of its borehole in one year through cost savings. Interestingly perhaps, Derek’s team has some very interesting projects, it recently spent time drilling in the Scottish mountains to provide adequate water supply for another environmental project, wind farms.

A head greenkeeper at a Cheshire-based club recently had a borehole installed. The decision was made on a cost saving basis when compared to using water from mains; it was suggested that the borehole, including all cost, will have paid for itself within four to five years, following that it will provide cost savings year on year. The process was a reasonably basic one and no scars are left on the course (a manhole cover exists out of the way of golfers). The area was surveyed and scanned for buried services, and a borehole was drilled. The water was sent away for testing and chemicals were used to achieve the required PH, as keeping water at the suggested PH is always the course’s responsibility.

The water from the borehole (when at right PH) was then trenched across to the irrigation tank (which already existed) for the golf course via a submersible pump. The irrigation tank receives water when levels are low to a certain point and it holds enough to sustain the course day to day and over a long period of dry weather. This particular course states use of 14 cubes per day on average for greens only; tee boxes rarely require the water and fairways aren’t watered.

Boreholes can cost anywhere from £8k to £20k depending on specifications. Ongoing costs after this are for licences if required, chemicals to keep the water at the correct PH levels, storage if it isn’t already present and any maintenance required to the support network.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 15, 2012 13:29
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