Napa Valley Country Club latest golf course to get recycled water

By: Marty James

There is a spectacular look to the par-5, 477-yard seventh hole at Napa Valley Country Club’s golf course.

A new, large lake, which can hold up to about 11 acre-feet (one acre-foot is about 325,000 gallons) of recycled water from the Napa Sanitation District (NSD), comes into play on the left-hand side of the fairway, where the rough used to be.

Some work with mounding has been done near the green, as well as along the cart path on the right side as you approach the green.

 “It’s a big difference,” said Sean Battistini, the club’s golf course superintendent. “It actually makes it a more challenging hole, that’s for sure. Everything around it changed.”

The big change is water — and lots of it.

Napa Valley CC, which opened in 1915, has had three fresh water lakes. But thanks to a multi-year contract with NSD, is now using recycled water on its fairways. NSD also supplies three other area courses — Chardonnay Golf Club, Eagle Vines Vineyards and Golf Club and Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park — with recycled water.

The country club would not disclose how much the deal is worth.

“The golf courses are great to work with,” said Tim Healy, NSD general manager. “All of them are very good users. They’re great customers.

“By Napa Valley Country Club using our water for irrigating that golf course, it frees up the ground water for other folks to use it for potable use and leaves some water in the streams that otherwise may have been pulled out of the stream. It leaves the water in the stream for downstream users.

“The beauty of our recycled water is it’s not subjected to those same water restrictions, because it’s not drinking water. It’s recycled water that otherwise, at one point, would have been disposed of in the Napa River.

“The golf courses are able to maintain their landscaping during the low water availability.”

Napa Valley CC signed contracts with NSD in June and started taking the recycled water last month from a pipeline that originates at the NSD treatment facility on Soscol Ferry Road. It’s part of the Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay Recycled Water Project, a 5-mile pipeline and booster pump station that brings irrigation water to vineyards, homes, an elementary school and NVCC. It’s operational after 10 years of planning and almost two years of construction, according to NSD.

“I think if you look at the golf industry up and down the state, there a lot of people whose golf courses have really suffered,” said Jeanne M. Johnston, General Manager and Club Sales and Marketing Director at Napa Valley CC. “We were some of the fortunate ones. We made it through last year because we had some rain, fortunately.

“We knew that if we could just get through one more year, NSD was going to provide us with water.

“We feel extremely fortunate. We feel that this has really given us the cutting edge. We’re trying to be so responsible.”

The recycled water comes from the Napa Sanitation District Soscol Water Recycling Facility. Recycled water is wastewater that has been highly treated and disinfected to provide a safe, non-drinkable water supply. NSD’s recycled water meets the stringent water quality guidelines set by the California Department of Public Health, NSD said in a press release.

“The biggest thing for us is just to see it actually come to fruition and to see the enjoyment that it’s going to provide our members and our neighbors for years to come,” said Johnson. “It makes us proud, really proud.

“It’s been wonderful so far. We haven’t had any glitches . It’s wonderful to see that lake full.”

NVCC shut off the water on its driving range the last three years due to the severity of drought conditions.

“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that something was going to have to be done,” said Johnson.

 NVCC, located off Hagen Road, has 480 golf members. There was an assessment for proprietary golf members for the construction of the lake. A pump station is located near the lake.

“This project was a large expense for our club members, but necessary to guarantee we have ample water to keep our club viable in the future,” said Wendy Lynch, a NVCC member.

The MST Recycled Water Project was constructed through a partnership between Napa County, NSD, and property owners that joined the specially formed MST Community Facilities District, according to a NSD press release.

Irrigation of NVCC with recycled water will result in conservation of between 150 and 200 acre-feet (more than 50 million gallons) per year of groundwater that is pumped from the Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay area aquifer.

“We’re not using ground water anymore,” said Battistini. “You have to change the way you manage your soil and your plant. It should have been something that was done years ago rather than just recently.”

NVCC was previously drawing water from its other lakes, which fill from storm water runoff, and a well on the property.

“Most it was whatever we would capture during the winter, is what we would use mainly for the back nine (holes),” said Battistini. “I don’t have to worry about Mother Nature anymore.”

Through a partnership with NSD, the new lake at the golf course will be used to receive recycled water from the MST pump station located over 5 miles away on Napa State Hospital property, NSD said.

“Recycled water going out there for the golf course and vineyards is using the right type of water for the right use,” said Healy. “We’ve been working our way all the way out to the country club, but it’s been many years in the making.”

NVCC has five lakes on the back nine. The lower No. 16 lake will be filled by NSD recycled water and used for irrigating fairways, tees, rough and the driving range. The other areas, such as the greens, green aprons and landscape areas will be irrigated with freshwater.

The upper lake at the driving range and its pump station will service the greens and landscape areas with freshwater. The remaining lakes at No. 15 and 16 remain as fresh water and will be filled during the winter months by storm water runoff.

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