The water crisis that threatens our golf courses

If your club uses mains potable water, it’s in trouble. We talk to environmental solutions expert Tony Hanson about the coming storm and what you can do about it Imagine everyone in Greater Manchester moving south. That’s 2.8 million souls and it’s the projected number of extra people expected to add to population growth over the next 20 years. Now imagine the added strain that moving mass would put on land and, crucially, on water resources.  “Consider that what we’re doing is getting world class drinking water, which we’re processing and you’re getting from the mains, and you’re throwing it on the ground,” says resources expert Tony Hanson about the way many golf clubs in the UK irrigate their turf.  “You can see the insanity of that process.” Hanson has an alarming message for golf courses. And if the prospect of what he’s about to deliver doesn’t shake businesses to their very roots, there’s something seriously wrong. Everyone knows there is pressure on water, and the further south you go the more difficult it gets. Think of the near annual hosepipe bans and you get the drift. That situation is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse. Recently, the Environment Agency warned that 3,435 million extra litres of water could be required every day if action is not taken to improve usage between now and 2050. Population growth, exacerbated by climate change and over abstraction, is driving the pressure – even in a nation with a reputation for being rainy.  The National Audit Office warned the UK Government last year that parts of southern England could start running out of water within two decades.  So if your golf course draws water from the mains then, in the near future, it could be in big trouble. It could be cut off. “This stark reality, that I’m suggesting, is coming from the water companies,” explains Hanson. “Their primary obligation is to maintain potable supply. There is not sufficient water to maintain that and to use water for irrigation of turf grass.” If water companies have that obligation to maintain supply and yet they need to reduce demand, think about how they might do that? Turf grass irrigation is seen as a discretionary water use. Do you actually need mains potable water to achieve it? “The reason it is being used in the turf grass industry is because it is accessible,” Hanson continues. “It is very cheap and it means you don’t have to do very much. “You don’t need any other engineering work. You can just plumb it in and away you go.  “But because of the pressures there are now, because of the forecasts we’ve got, because of the changing climate and the increase in temperatures, the fact we’ve got to leave more water in the environment to address those historic problems means they [water companies] need to find reductions. “This isn’t a case of managing what we’ve got and, OK you can have whatever it might be historically...
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