Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where Does All Our Irrigation Water Go?

Looking out over the golf course this time of year it might seem strange to see a topic discussing irrigation water usage.  But winter is a great time of year to run some calculations and review our water usage from the previous year.  Water usage in our industry tends to be a topic discussed by many Superintendents as well as our association leaders so we feel it's in our best interest to track where our water goes on the golf course.

Do we have a water crisis?  Based on the amount of snow we have this year most in our state would probably say no. But  what would happen if  local and state leaders began to regulate our industries water usage? This is a question Nick and I have discussed the past few years.  One question we have asked ourselves is what would happen if we were asked by the Minnesota DNR (regulators of our water use) to restrict our usage by, say 10%.  What would we do?  Where would we look at reducing our input?  How would we communicate with our members and what information would we have to back those decisions?  Important questions but difficult to answer if you don't have the data.

Thankfully we keep diligent records of our water usage and the programs we run on a daily basis in season. Each program is listed on a sheet and the time or amount of water applied is recorded.  When each program is run, our Toro Site-Pro irrigation controller automatically calculates how many gallons are used for a particular program.  Nick then calculates the gallons used for each program throughout the season.  We then end up with totals for each area of the golf course, green, tees, fairways, rough, clubhouse lawn and a few other programs we utilize.  Currently we have four years worth of specific data.

Daily log of irrigation cycles and rainfall amounts

Changes in our irrigation practices as well as changes in our sward of turf from predominately poa annua to creeping bentgrass has allowed us to work at adjusting our watering philosophy from nightly light watering cycles to deep and infrequent cycles.  Obviously weather conditions greatly dictate when and how much we water and can greatly impact our consumption from year to year.  But by tracking our water usage on each area of the course we feel we have some valuable information.

Site-Pro Irrigation Programs

Shows that gallons of water used for a specific days usage

This season we will monitor greens moisture on a daily basis using the TDR 300 moisture sensor. By knowing what our daily soil moisture content is and where that level needs to be maintained for healthy turf I fore see a reduction of water usage on our greens. This is because we will only be applying water to reach field capacity when we know we reach our wilt point threshold as opposed to when we think we have reached our threshold.  Additionally since we have 21 greens with 21 different requirements we have now developed 21 separate greens programs.  We will still have the capability of watering all 21 greens on any given night, but we can also add or eliminate water to a green based on its requirement.  Watering all greens when some don't require it, is not only a waste of water, but can create unhealthy conditions for the turf and inconsistent playing conditions for the golfer.

Here's a closer look at our irrigation usage over the past 4 season.

2007 2008 2009 2010
Greens 841,959 874,874 940,503 598,216
Main PG 8,639 23,997 81,787 74,859
Hedge Green no program 9,876 43,659 37,197
Chipper Green no program 21,902 89,582 86,992
Tees 4,264,375 3,477,955 3,809,864 3,130,119
Surrounds 1,313,606 1,105,263 1,008,137 476,744
Fairways 8,150,787 6,854,786 6,848,072 4,899,798
Rough 9,091,439 8,296,344 6,822,187 6,688,950
DR Tee 341,856 308,304 290,304 226,800
DR Fairway 756,648 622,728 648,000 608,256
SG Tee 577,512 342,252 438,480 332,316
Nurseries 93,744 75,600 22,680 41,580
Fescue Bunkers 0 0 255,312 0
Fairway Hotspots 129,600 269,640 232,380 84,924
MSF 145,451 106,184 152,162 89,910
CH Lawn 467,820 405,720 69,000 160,928
Fairway Landing Zones no program no program no program no program
Total 26,185,443 22,797,433 21,754,118 17,539,599

Rainfall (inches) 22.67 16.11 21.24 25.19

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