When someone’s very livelihood is impacted by something, you better believe he or she understands the situation and will act accordingly to prevent a potentially devastating outcome.
Such is the case for the Southern Nevada (and Nevada) golf industry when it comes to the ongoing water crisis in Southern Nevada and the entire Western United States. The potential impact on the golf industry is far-reaching, which could create negative consequences for non-golf businesses.
The Nevada golf industry makes a nearly a $2 billion annual economic impact on the state, so a negative business climate for the industry most assuredly will have far-reaching negative results on related businesses, employees and families.
Jobs are also on the line. The Nevada golf industry directly and indirectly employs more than 17,000 people who help take care of families and loved ones from those jobs associated with golf in the Silver State.
Also, a main economic driver in Nevada is tourism. Visiting golfers in Nevada spend an estimated $744.3 million annually and more than $138 million is generated in tax revenues, not including property taxes.
Golf also helps give back to those less fortunate. The Nevada golf industry helps generate $37 million in charitable giving annually.
Fortunately, Nevada’s golf leaders have been eyeing the water issue for decades, and Southern Nevada golf course owners, management and superintendents have already been working to conserve water. And they stand ready to continue and enhance those efforts as the water situation evolves.
Two ways the industry has prepared and conserved:
- More than 900 acres of turf has been taken out on Southern Nevada golf courses, saving more than a billion gallons of water.
- Many golf courses utilize state-of-the-art irrigation systems that can measure down to the last drop and halt watering when none is needed.
It is important to note that overall, Southern Nevada uses less water with about two million residents than it used in 2002 with far fewer residents. According to CBSnews.com, “Southern Nevada has cut its overall water use by 26% while also adding 750,000 people to its population since 2002.”
At the forefront with others of these efforts has been the golf industry, which has taken a proactive approach over the last two decades that resulted in the savings listed above.
From purely a golf stand point, superintendents want to use the least amount of water possible because it enhances playing conditions. But the superintendents also want to do what is right by the environment and be a good community partner and steward.
Partner is the key word, and the industry wants to work closely with the Southern Nevada Water Authority and governmental bodies to establish the best practices and guidelines moving forward.
A recent plan by the SNWA to cut individual golf course water budgets to 4.0 acre feet annually from the current 6.3 acre feet has golf industry leaders worried. There are courses that currently could meet the new maximum limit, but others possibly may need additional time to prepare. Plus, golf leaders are currently discussing plans on how to best help the overall situation and limit collateral damage. The new budget was to begin in January but is being extended to April 2023. Details are still being worked out on the new maximum limit, but it appears the practice of overseeding could be difficult moving forward.
Golf industry leaders are also very worried about the unintended consequences that could occur, from jobs lost, to a negative impact on tourism, to home prices suffering when golf courses possibly close or go brown in golf course communities, to other ways.
The possibility of dropping home values would have a trickle-down effect on property tax revenues and cost government coffers millions.
In addition to staying committed to previous conservation efforts, some of the new conservation plans being discussed and implemented by the golf industry include helping the Southern Nevada Water Authority communicate to the 200,000+ golfing residents in Southern Nevada to ensure they are following the residential watering guidelines. Even with the strong efforts by the SNWA, a large percentage of residents—in or out of golf communities–don’t follow the current watering guidelines.
The massive water savings that could happen if and when ALL residents adhere to the watering guidelines would be game-changing for everyone.
Through databases and other outreach, golf industry leaders have pledged to communicate and help golfing residents understand how they can do their parts to conserve in their homes and therefore help the golf industry survive and thrive.
Another idea being floated is to urge the SNWA to create rebates for golf courses that don’t yet have the state-of-the-art irrigation systems in place. This scenario seems to be very viable because the SNWA already offers a variety of monetary incentives to businesses and residents to curtail water use. Some of the lower-end courses aren’t able to make the large financial investment needed to implement the new technology that could save billions of gallons of water over time.
According to superintendents, if all golf courses were equipped with these systems, it could help save up to 20 percent in water use annually.
For sure, golf course owners and operators are currently looking into realistic ways to take out additional acres of turf and make other changes to conserve as much water as possible. This also includes planting turf that is best suited for desert climates.
Recently, the Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendent Association along with the Sierra Nevada superintendent’s chapter created an expansive “Best Management Practices Guide”, of which a large portion was dedicated to water management. Now, other locales in other states are turning to Nevada’s experts as they create their own water use and conservation plans.
With input from golf course superintendents, academia, environmental consultants, state and local regulatory agencies, and golf industry experts, the Nevada Best Management Practices Committee created the guide that addresses sustainable golf course operations in all areas of the state, ranging from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the north to the Mojave Desert in the south.
A main mission revealed in the guide is the commitment of golf course superintendents to the issue of water. About 33 percent of the 167-page guide is dedicated to water management and conservation.
The Nevada golf course industry understands the water situation and is helping to lead the West with their ideas and initiatives.
It’s in all of their best interests to do their part.
According to representatives with the Nevada Golf Alliance, the Nevada and Southern Nevada golf industry stand ready to partner with all entities to create the best path moving forward. And they all understand that now is the time for continued action, but action that creates the least unintended consequences possible.
“While the golf industry is keenly aware that additional measures need to be taken to become stronger stewards of this natural resource, we simply want to be part of the dialogue in creating a best practice approach so there are not any unintended consequences,” said Jason Cheney, Southern Highlands general manager, which is an opinion shared throughout the golf industry.
Statistics are from the 2018 Nevada Golf Economic Impact Report prepared by TEConomy Partners, LLC in agreement with GOLF 20/20, the Southern Nevada Golf Association, the Northern Nevada Golf Association, the Nevada Golf Alliance, the Nevada State Golf Association, the Southern Nevada Chapter of the Southwest Section of The PGA of America, the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Northern California Section of The PGA of America, and the Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Also, CBSnews.com provided the statistic for water savings initiatives.