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Coachella Valley aquifer cries 'uncle'

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					    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
                                                                                                                                                         Syngenta,
                                        appear in the earth if golf courses, residents and businesses don't start conserving more water. The
                                                                                                                                                         others boost
                                        sinking is not irreversible, but water district officials say it will take projects worth $110 million to help
                                                                                                                                                         program
                                                                                                                                                             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
                                                                                                                                                         ing objectives.
                                        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

				
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