By: Jim Schmid, Special to The Desert Sun
El Niño’s rains are falling. The Sierra snowpack is well above average. The reservoirs are refilling in advance of the spring snow melt. The state’s urban water users have reduced their 2013 usage by 26.3 percent. This confluence of events has persuaded the State Water Resources Control Board to relax current conservation mandates by as much as 8 percent in some regions and consider further relaxations in 2016 to the extent to which the rain and snow continue to fall.
At the same time the Coachella Valley Golf and Water Task Force is adding members and redoubling its efforts to reduce the desert golf industry’s water footprint by a factor of 17 percent. I know; I’m one of the new members who joined other valley golf course superintendents, general managers, club members, management/ownership representatives and association leaders on the Task Force at the beginning of 2016.
You may be wondering why we would all join a conservation effort at precisely the moment we’re starting to see relief from the drought. The answer is as simple as it is often overlooked. The collaborative effort between the valley golf industry and the Coachella Valley Water District was convened not in response to any temporal drought, but in response to the goals of the Coachella Valley Water Management Plan – goals that are unique to this region and related almost exclusively to the integrity of the giant aquifer that sits beneath us. Precisely because the golf industry is so large and impactful here in the valley – its 122 golf courses represent 14 percent of California’s golf stock, generate $1.1 billion in economic activity, and employ more than 14,000 workers – there is no way for the region’s water agencies to restore the aquifer to a state of equilibrium without an “impactful” contribution from the industry that defines much of life in the desert.
The founding members of the task force haven’t gone anywhere. They established a scientifically grounded budget allocation model, created the region’s first turf rebate program, stimulated new desert-centric conservation programs, assisted in converting many more golf properties to non-potable sources, conducted myriad educational conferences designed to raise awareness and, in the process, laid a foundation upon which an expanded group of golf courses, disciplines and industry representatives can now ramp up efforts to bring the valley golf industry into full alignment with the Coachella Valley Water Management Plan.
Will it be easy? No; important matters rarely are. Am I glad I joined the task force’s ranks? Absolutely; there is no “task” more important to the long-term sustainability of the industry that employs me and so many thousands of my fellow residents in this valley. Will we get there overnight? No, but that’s the beauty of this collaborative effort.
By starting down this road so early, the golf industry and CVWD have given themselves the luxury of the time necessary to get it right – right for the industry, right for the water district, right for the aquifer, and right for the community.
Jim Schmid is golf superintendent at The Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert and is a member of the Coachella Valley Golf and Water Task Force and the board of directors of the Hi-Lo Desert chapter Golf Course Superintendents Association. Email him at email@example.com.