f r o n t NINE
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Golf courses in Southern
California's Coachella Valley,
several of which hosted the
GCSAA National Champion-
ship and Golf Classic in
2007, are now facing a
unique problem — the area
has sunk more than a foot in
the past nine years. Photo
by Scott Hollister
Coachella Valley aquifer cries 'uncle'
Parts of Southern California's Coachella Valley, home to more than 100 world-class golf resorts,
have sunk more than a foot in nine years because too much water is being pumped from the aquifer
below, according to a report by federal scientists and the valley's largest water district.
The findings raise concerns that streets could buckle, sewer lines could break and trenches could
appear in the earth if golf courses, residents and businesses don't start conserving more water. The
sinking is not irreversible, but water district officials say it will take projects worth $110 million to help
Several more companies
stabilize the ground.
have joined GCSAA's Partner
According to the United States Geological Survey study, the amount that the ground has dropped
Recognition Program, which
ranges from about 3 to 13 inches during a period between 1996 and 2005 in an area stretching
provides year-round exposure
from Rancho Mirage to Coachella. The solutions are costly. Steve Robbins, general manager of the
based on a prescribed level of
Coachella Valley Water District, notes that a $70 million pipeline is already under construction that will
investment to achieve market-
send recycled water to 50 golf courses in Indian Wells, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage so they won't
have to pump groundwater. The first stretch of the pipeline will be completed in mid-2008.
The list is joined by Syn-
Only a third of the valley's golf courses currently use recycled water or imported river water for
genta Professional Products, a
irrigation. Richard Sail, a 12-year GCSAA member who is superintendent at Toscana Country Club in
longtime supporter of the as-
Palm Desert and secretary of the Hi-Lo Desert GCSA, says many private clubs in the area resist using
Dick Stuntz, CGCS, sociation and a key contribu-
effluent because of its discoloration effect on irrigation ponds.
president of Alvamar Inc. in tor to its philanthropic arm,
The sinking land will reduce the aquifer's water capacity, but it will be minor. The concern is
Lawrence, Kan., and a 30- The Environmental Institute for
more for what will happen above ground, Robbins says, adding that although the valley is laced with
year member of GCSAA, was Golf. Syngenta will invest re-
earthquake faults, the reason for the drop in land elevation is over-pumping — about 32.6 billion
recently elected to the board of sources at the Gold Level.
gallons taken from the aquifer each year, three times more than what is naturally replenished by rain
directors of the National Golf Others, all pledging their
and snowmelt from nearby mountains.
Course Owners Association. support at the Silver Level, in-
Water from the Colorado River, however, will be used to refill the lower part of the basin in another
Besides his role with Alvamar, clude Standard Golf Co., FMC
planned $40 million project.
a golf course and real estate Corp., Sandtrapper, Tycrop
Tim Putnam, Class A superintendent at La Quinta Country Club, says his course won't be able to
company, Stuntz is presi- and Monsanto Co.
tap into the new recycled water pipeline because the course is too far south. He irrigates 110 acres,
dent of Oak Golf Inc. and a "Without the support of in-
utilizing about 228 million gallons of groundwater per year.
co-owner of H&S Enterprises, dustry, GCSAA would not have
Putnam says the valley's 125 golf courses sometimes get a bad rap for the amount of water they
both Lawrence-based golf the ability to provide resources
use, pointing out that most courses use water efficiently because their weather station-based sen-
course management firms. to the benefit of its members
sors determine the amount of water needed. He also says that large landscaped areas around homes,
From 1983 to 2006, he was and their employers," GCSAA
businesses and medians are part of the problem.
vice president of golf facilities CEO Steve Mona, CAE, said in
"I can drive anywhere and in 15 minutes I guarantee you'll see a sprinkler spraying into the street
at Alvamar. Stuntz has been a release announcing the lat-
or shooting up in the air," the 22-year GCSAA member says. "They might not catch it for months. We
involved in golf course owner- est round of companies join-
walk our course every day checking for that kind of thing."
ship for the past decade and ing the PRP. "That's why we
Robbins says the district is urging residents and homeowner associations to use weather-based
is a seven-year member of call our friends in the industry
sensors similar to those used on golf courses to adjust for the watering needs of large landscaped
NGCOA. 'partners.' We are appreciative
areas and to use plants that require less water.
of their support and I know our
"We have to go through a process that changes that mind-set," he says.
members are as well."
— Information provided by the Riverside Press-Enterprise and The Associated Press
22 GCM February 2008