Portugal announces restrictions on irrigation at golf clubs

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 27, 2022 10:51

As a survey reveals golf courses are using far less water than they used to, Portugal has announced that irrigation of them in the Algarve will be restricted in order to avert water rationing for human consumption.

Portugal, like much of Western Europe, has experienced a hotter and drier July in 2022 compared with 2021, and is currently experiencing its worst drought so far this century.

According to the Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera (IPMA), 99 percent of Portugal’s territory is already in ‘severe or extreme’ drought.

Reuters states that the Algarve restrictive measure had been agreed to by the government and will help save 100 million litres of water over the summer months.

This announcement comes as a survey conducted by Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) shows water usage at golf courses has dropped dramatically in the last 20 years.

Golf courses in the USA used 29 percent less water in 2020 compared with usage in 2005.

The survey results from nearly 1,600 golf course superintendents found that US golf facilities applied approximately 1.68 million acre-feet of water in 2020. Two-thirds of the reduction was likely a result of operational golf facilities applying water more efficiently.

“Data from the 2021 water use benchmarking survey show that golf course superintendents continue to reduce water use at their facilities. The survey results indicate a nine percent reduction in applied water since 2013, totaling a 29 percent reduction since the inaugural survey was conducted,” J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D. University of Florida, and the National Golf Foundation (NGF), said. “Similarly, the median acre-feet per acre, a measure of water use efficiency, has improved by 23 percent since 2005.”

The most common sources of water, according to the report, were wells (32 percent) and lakes and ponds (23 percent). Less water was applied in 2020 from each water source than in 2005 except for recycled water, which accounted for 21 percent of water applied.
Golf course superintendents have also increased the use of best management practices (BMPs) that can lead to reductions in water usage. BMPs such as keeping turf drier, pruning tree roots, changing to a more drought-tolerant turfgrass, mulching landscape beds and increasing no-mow acres were significantly associated with reductions in applied water.

“Golf course superintendents are responsible stewards of water resources, and the latest national survey results demonstrate that,” said Rhett Evans, CEO of GCSAA. “Superintendents are committed  to efficient water management and have implemented evidence-based best management practices that result in reduced water use. All golf facilities should maintain a BMP manual and strive for continuous improvement as water management plans are an important aspect of BMPs and overall environmental sustainability.”

Meanwhile in the UK a new report finds that mains and abstraction for irrigation will become restricted for golf clubs – but the industry can find alternatives in the form of rainwater harvesting, surface flood water attenuation, land drainage, SuDS runoff and treated effluent.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 27, 2022 10:51
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  1. Peter July 27, 17:00

    Those of us, in this industry, know most golf courses and clubs are great stewards of the environment and water conservation experts ! Irrigation systems too, have come a long way ! However, there is still, much more, many can do ! With all its acreage, clubhouses and in many cases homes, water harvesting is an idea, that has not gotten traction ! Just one of many more, we should be considering !

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  2. SH July 27, 15:31

    This should be be a warning to all UK golf clubs currently relying on unsecured sources of water. Mains in particular.

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