Water Use For Georgia Agricultural (Farm Use) Withdrawal Permitted Golf Courses*

Cliff Lewis
Georgia Environmental Protection Division
Tifton, GA

(NAIP Imagery, GoogleEarth (tm))
In counties and state water planning regions where there are non-municipality water supplied golf courses, their water needs should be included in any planning for future water use. To address this need in a consistent manner across state water planning regions, the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association (GGCSA) partnered with Georgia EPD to estimate water use in current agriculturally permitted golf course operations. In addition, Clint Waltz, University of Georgia Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Extension Specialist, UGA Campus at Griffin, provided data related to his research on GGCSA Best Management Practices (BMPs). That data provided on annual irrigation needs for well-managed golf courses. Although the data presented here does not forecast golf course water use in the future, it does provide water use estimates in an average rainfall year and in a dry year. These annual amounts are representative of Georgia golf course turf water use. Data was assembled by Georgia EPD's Agricultural Permit Program in Tifton, Georgia.
*Includes only Golf Course Agricultural (Farm Use) Permits: State regulations require that farmers and others who withdraw more than 100,000 gpd from streams and aquifers obtain a permit from the Environmental Protection Division. With that limit, most golf course irrigation systems require permits. However, provisions in Georgia Code stipulate alternate permitting for golf courses in certain areas:
    Under the 1988 Amendments to the Georgia Water Quality Control Act, a 'Farm Use' is defined as follows:
    "...irrigation of any land used for general farming, forage, aquaculture, pasture, turf production, orchards, or tree and ornamental nurseries; provisions of water supply for farm animals, poultry farming, or any other activity conducted in the course of farming operations. Farm uses shall also include the processing of perishable agricultural products and the irrigation of recreational turf, except in the Chattahoochee River watershed upstream from the Peachtree Creek confluence, where irrigation of recreational turf shall not be considered a farm use."
    The Georgia Groundwater Use Act defines a 'Farm Use' as follows:
    “…irrigation of any land used for general farming, forage, aquaculture, pasture, turf production, orchards, or tree and ornamental nurseries; provisions of water supply for farm animals, poultry farming, or any other activity conducted in the course of a farming operation. Farm uses shall also include the processing of perishable agricultural products and the irrigation of recreational turf, except in Chatham, Effingham, Bryan, and Glynn counties, where irrigation of recreational turf shall not be considered a farm use.”
In cases where recreational areas, including golf courses, are not considered farm uses, golf course withdrawals for irrigation are permitted as other commercial uses in those areas. Additionally, some golf courses, typically community owned, receve their water from local municipal suppliers. Water use for golf courses with municipal and industrial permits or municipal supplies are NOT included in the statewide estimates of (farm use) golf course irrigation withdrawals given below.
Data Sets: Agricultural Permitted Golf Courses

Water Use By Permitted Golf Courses in each Water Planning Region.
Region by Region record of total annual water use by golf courses.
(Excel file - last update 4/13/2010)

Water Use By Permitted Golf Course by water source in each Water Planning Region.
WPR-by-WPR record of annual golf course irrigation water use by permitted sources.
(Excel file - last update 4/13/2010)

Water Use By Permitted Golf Course by water source in each county
County-by-county record of annual golf course irrigation water use by permitted sources.
(Excel file - last update 4/13/2010)


ASSUMPTIONS:

Some assumptions were made in order to calculate estimated water use for Georgia Agriculturally permitted golf courses:
  1. Water use calculations were made using permitted acreages for Ag permitted golf courses in the EPD agricultural permit database. These permitted acreages represent the most reliable source of irrigated acreage information currently available to EPD. No comparison has been made between area permitted and as-installed area of tees, greens, fairways, and other irrigated landscapes within those golf courses.
  2. “The standard recommendation for turfgrass irrigation is one-inch of water per week, supplemental to rainfall, and Georgia has a 30 week growing season (April 1 to October 31). Therefore, 30 inches of irrigation would be recommended.” (Clint Waltz, Research Update: Evaluation of the GGCSA BMPs, 2008).
  3. Using water use reported in GGSCSA BMPs, the average water use was 14.06 inches per year (Clint Waltz, Research Update: Evaluation of the GGCSA BMPs, 2008).
  4. Since none of the water application depths in Clint Waltz's GGCSA's BMPs were reported as “average”, “wet”, or “dry” years, it is assumed that the data was from “average” years. This assumption is credible when you compare the 14.06 inches per year number with the 12.30 inches per year calculated by EPD from 2005 (wet year) GGCSA BMP water use data for the 61 county provided to EPD by GGCSA during the 2007 Level IV drought period. The reason 12.30 inches is not used in the range produced here is because the number is only representative of approximately one year of collected water use golf course data (2005). Waltz's calculation of 14.06 inches is representative of golf course water use collected from 2004 – 2007 GGCSA member golf courses of and is thereby a more expansive data set.


PROCEDURES:

Using the above assumptions and water use as reported in the GGCSA BMPs, the average use was 14.06 acre-inches per year. Since 30 acre-inches is optimal, a water use range of 14.06 – 30 acre-inches per year was produced. The 14.06 acre-inches represent an “Average rainfall year”, and the 30 acre-inches represents a “ Dry year (no rainfall)”.

For each EPD Ag permitted golf course, the “average rainfall year” water use was calculated by multiplying the total number of permitted acreage by 14.06 acre-inches. This calculation provided the total acre-inch water use in a year of average rainfall, for an April 1 – October 31 growing season.

Similarly, for each EPD Ag permitted golf course, the “Dry year (no rainfall)” water use was calculated by multiplying the total number of permitted acreage by 30 acre-inches. This calculation provided the total acre-inch water use in a dry year of no rainfall, for an April 1 – October 31 growing season.

Conversions:
1 MGD = 1120 acre-feet per year
1120 acre-feet X 12 = 13, 440 acre-inches
1 MGD = 13, 440 acre-inches
SCENARIOS THAT REQUIRE A GOLF COURSE TO USE IN EXCESS OF 30 ACRE-INCHES IN A GROWING SEASON:

  • Overseeding - Overseeding is needed in order to keep a golf course in playing condition throughout the entire year. Overseeding is done when a golf course's main grass in the fairways, tee boxes, and greens is about to go into its dormant stage. The overseeding procedure is performed by placing a great deal of seed onto the course. In order for the seed to take, enough water must be used for the seed to germinate. At times after the seed has germinated and grown into the ground irrigation may continue to be necessary to ensure the seed takes.
  • Grow-in / Renovations – Newly planted turf will require more water than an established turf.
  • Fertilizer/Pesticide Application – Additional irrigation gets the material into the ground where it can be used by plants and turf.
  • Sandy Soils - Sandy soils are light and have a poor ability to hold water.
  • Salt-Water Flushing - In Coastal areas, salt can become problematic to turfgrass. Salt reduces the ability of plants and turfgrass to take up water and causes reductions in growth rate.


Last updated 04/13/2010 James E. Hook
Links reconfirmed 11/7/2012 JEH