Dry Winter In California Could Impact Water Supplies In 2013 April 2, 2013 By Pat Gross

The San Luis Reservoir in central California is one of several water storage basins that are well below capacity. Although the state water supply is not yet at a critical stage, golf courses should take steps to prepare for possible water restrictions during the summer and fall.

April 1 is an important day in California. That is when official measurements are taken on the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which provides an estimate of the amount of water that will be flowing to nearby reservoirs and how much water will be available for farming and the 37.8 million people in California. The news this week was not very encouraging. The months of January, February and March were the driest on record since 1850, with snow water content ranging from 40 to 57 percent of normal.

Although the state’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake, are at approximately 82 percent of capacity, there is a possibility that water supplies could be restricted in 2013.

What does this mean for golf courses in California? Be prepared. April is an important time to analyze and review irrigation strategies for the summer and develop contingency plans should water restrictions be imposed. Reviewing and discussing irrigation plans in the spring can help to avoid panic and bad decision making during the summer. Specific strategies that should be addressed include:

  • Review water use records for the past several years to gain a clear understanding of golf course water demand during the summer and fall. This is essential information for making informed decisions on water use.
  • Fine tune the performance of the irrigation system by performing system checks, raising and leveling sprinklers, and checking for worn nozzles and system components.
  • Develop a drought contingency plan to determine where and how much water will need to be reduced if restrictions are imposed.
  • Evaluate and adjust maintenance practices (mowing height, mowing frequency, fertility, aeration, and use of soil surfactants) so that the turf is as healthy as possible going into summer.
  • Visit the USGA website page Water Conservation on Golf Courses to gather additional information on best management practices that can be implemented at your course.
  • Keep golfers informed by sharing information about water conservation efforts at the golf course.
  • Sign up for a USGA Turf Advisory Service site visit focused on water conservation strategies.

Source: Patrick Gross (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

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