Monday, October 20, 2023

Article provided by Craig Kessler, SCGA

he Director penned an article in SCGA’s hard copy magazine FORE entitled, The Era of Recycled Water May be Drawing to a Close.” The kind of recycled water used for outdoor irrigation, that is – nonpotable reuse.

The reason: The effluent used to produce that traditional form of recycled water was going to soon be routinely used to create drinking water – a process known as potable reuse. In addition, more of that effluent was going to be used to recharge aquifers. Indeed, both processes had already begun by October 2017. Orange County had already pioneered a potable reuse facility in Fountain Valley, and Los Angeles Water & Power had already begun dedicating effluent to the recharging of the large aquifer sitting beneath the Northeastern San Fernando Valley.

Fast forward to Fall 2023, and the Southern California Metropolitan Water District is on track to open the largest potable reuse facility in 2032 in the heart of the LA Harbor area, and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has embarked upon the Rulemaking process necessary to amend Title 22 of the State Water Code to “adopt regulations governing the use of municipal wastewater to produce water that is used to augment a source of supply for a public water system’s drinking water treatment plant or placed into a public water system’s drinking water distribution system.” As SWRCB puts it in its “Initial Statement of Reasons” for the new Rules, the benefits include providing safe drinking water, a safe drinking water supply for Californians, a relatively reliable, drought-proof, and sustainable option for drinking water, and an additional means for increased beneficial use of recycled water.

The effluent to provide golf’s recycled water is going to be increasingly dedicated to potable reuse, making the admonition we issued in that 2017 FORE story more relevant than ever:

Now would be the time to consider the upshot of all of this — not just for those golf courses that had hoped to gain recycled access at some future time, but for those golf courses whose recycled contracts will be coming up for renewal. It behooves the former class of golf courses to begin contemplating what comes next in an environment sure to become increasingly hostile to “watering golf courses with drinking water.” It behooves the latter class to approach their water suppliers with entreaties to extend extant contracts before they come due.

And it behooves all of us to pay closer heed to those who preach the need to think in blocks of time longer than the next quarter.

Those with enormous appetites for detail can read the SWRCB’s entire “Initial Statement of Reasons” by clicking here. The only update to that October 2017 FORE story we would issue today would be to change the title ever so slightly to “The Era of Recycled Water is Fast Closing.”

There are still opportunities to secure access, but they won’t be there for long, and not just due to the expansion of direct potable reuse, but due also to the competition for limited resources posed by the myriad other ways of expanding local supplies such as stormwater capture, aquifer recharge, and desalination.

For those of you who want to see just how prescient that October 2017 FORE was, you can click here to read an archived version of it on the SCGA website


Our last “Update” detailed the one piece of water legislation (AB 1572 – Proscription upon the use of potable water to irrigate nonfunctional turf) that we considered the most positively impactful to the statewide golf community to get signed into law in the 2023 legislative session – “positively impactful” because golf is specifically referenced as “recreational” and/or “functional” turf exempt from the proscription, language sure to be copied and pasted into all sorts of future bills and regulations, not just at the state level, but at the local and regional levels as well.

Previous updates detailed what we believe to be the opening of a long process to upend the senior water rights conferred in 1850, 1873, and 1913 to reflect the radically changed circumstances of modernity – that opening being SB 389, a new law that gives the state the data and reach it will need to determine whether a water right is valid, otherwise understood by many as the first step to enforcing or vitiating those rights. AB 460 and AB 1337 are parallels that didn’t quite make it through the 2023 session but are in process of being substantially amended to make credible 2-year bill runs in January 2024. We’ll be eagerly watching. Whether they make it through that tight window or not, we expect them and other similar bills to be filed and refiled in the 2024 session and beyond.

Another bright spot for golf was AB 363 – a bill signed into law that establishes neonicotinoids as substances banned unless applied by “licensed applicators.” The 2022 version of the bill, which was vetoed by Governor Newsom, allowed application only by agricultural licensed applicators. The signed 2023 version allows application by all licensed applicators, which allows the California golf community to continue their use, which though limited, can be important at certain times and in certain places. Kudos to the GCSAA, which lobbied hard for the 2023 version that Governor Newsom signed.

As we suggested in an earlier “Update” entitled, “Heeding Labor’s Roar,” California is in the throes of a massive recalibration of the rules governing worker’s wages, benefits, and rights in strong favor of labor. The “roar” didn’t extend all the way to SB 799 becoming law, because Governor Newsom vetoed the last-minute gut-and-amend bill that would have granted striking workers unemployment benefits. But here are the bills the Governor did sign in the 2023 session:

AB 1 – Collective bargaining: legislature. Enacted the Legislature Employer-Employee Relations Act, to provide employees of the Legislature, except certain specified categories of excluded employees, the right to form, join, and participate in the activities of employee organizations of their own choosing for the purpose of representation on all matters of employer-employee relations.

AB 621 – Workers’ compensation: special death benefit. Expands an exemption to include state safety members, peace officers, and firefighters for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who are members of Bargaining Unit 8 and would apply the exemption for these employees retroactively to January 1, 2019, for injuries not previously claimed or resolved.

AB 1228 – Gives raises to fast food workers – $20/hr.

SB 332 – Minor league baseball player bargaining agreement. Ensures a collective bargaining agreement for minor league baseball, guaranteeing better wages and benefits for more than 360 California minor league players, such as housing, health care, and compensation, including in the regular season, spring training, and the off-season.

SB 497 – Reduces retaliation against workers who have filed wage claim or unequal wage complaint.

SB 525 – $25/hr. Healthcare workers.

SB 616 – Add paid sick days. Amends California’s paid sick leave law to expand mandatory paid sick leave from three days or twenty-four hours to five days or forty hours.

Expect more of the same in 2024. While golf has punched way above its political weight on those matters directly related to the game, e.g., AB 672, AB 1910, and AB 2257 in previous legislative sessions and AB 1572 and AB 363 in the just concluded 2023 session, it isn’t a productive use of golf’s limited time and even more limited resources to engage as heavily on bills that affect all businesses in California. The game is irrelevant in a space dominated by the California Chamber of Commerce, various local/regional business chambers and roundtables, not to mention specific sectors that dwarf golf in economic reach and impact. However, it often makes sense to support the efforts of these larger entities through membership in their ranks or as part of large diverse coalitions, so long as the effort doesn’t otherwise detract from the game’s greater framing and positioning strategies.


A local example but an instructive one in a long string of examples of how a golf association can amass the facts of the matter as opposed to a version of them provided by those intent on repurposing golf course land for their preferred use, make those facts known to the decision-makers, and then rally its members and member clubs behind those “facts” to get a verdict in the public arena favorable to golf’s cause.

To the many SCGA members who responded to SCGA’s call to action about the “Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan” we are happy to inform you that the City of Los Angeles’ “Draft Plan” is now out for public comment and contains 54 holes of golf with a suggestion that 18 of them (Woodley Lakes) be upgraded and refreshed.

A ”Plan” that began with options to eliminate 9, 18, or 27 holes of municipal/public golf in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley has concluded with the maintenance of 54 holes that are to be improved in three (3) ways: 1) The “refresh/upgrade” of Woodley Lakes, 2) the re-routing of those holes on the Encino Golf Course that are the first to flood when the LA River’s waters are diverted during heavy rainfall events, and 3) the repurposing of the unused acreage surrounding much of the three Basin golf courses as natural habitat.

The ”Plan” is now so beneficial to this bulwark of San Fernando Valley public golf that the SCGA was able to issue a hearty endorsement of it in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The SCGA will issue a formal comment to that effect along with a suggestion that we believe will be well received to consider the construction of a junior golf/developmental golf similar to the Tregnan Golf Academy in Griffith Park within the footprint of the current Woodley Lakes Golf Course – a “comment” that we also believe will have the full support of the city’s Recreation and Park Department.

Those of you with appetite for reviewing the full 272-page “Draft Plan” thereon can click here to review the Homepage of the website the city has created for the project. The Homepage connects you both to the full “Plan” and a simple electronic form that allows you to seamlessly and very quickly issue your own comments upon it, something we highly encourage you to do. It’s important that golfers make clear the need to maintain 54 holes of desperately needed public golf in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. No doubt there will be those who issue comments about reducing that existing golf. And consider throwing in the need for a junior golf developmental facility while you’re at it.