Irrigation water source

Dave Harbison, water management specialist, Coachella Valley (Calif.) Water District

Golf course irrigation is made possible through long-range planning. Golf is big business in the Coachella Valley where we have just less than 100 golf courses, making the sport the lead draw in a tourist-driven economy where irrigation is a reasonable and beneficial use of groundwater.

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The State of California has mandated the use of recycled water for irrigation when a sufficient amount of reasonably priced, recycled water is available. Coachella Valley Water District works to provide such alternative sources. While alternative sources reduce the need for groundwater use, however, they fall far short of eliminating it.

We reclaim virtually all water from the sewage generated in the Valley's urban area. We return this high-quality, cleansed water to the community through a separate distribution system for golf course and greenbelt irrigation. As mentioned, however, the Valley does not generate nearly enough recycled water to fill all irrigation needs.

Some courses within the Valley's agricultural area use Colorado River water via the All American Canal system. Even here, delivery schedules, lack of on-site storage and other factors require the use of supplemental groundwater.

To assure that the groundwater basin is constantly replenished, Coachella Valley Water District has a contract to import State Water Project water. We exchange that water for Colorado River water to facilitate delivery to the Valley and allow it to percolate through the sand into the groundwater supply. We assess a fee upon each country club and other major groundwater pumper based on the water they extract--which covers the cost of replacing it.

Dr. James Crook, chairman, Water Reuse Committee, Water Environment Federation

Water reclamation and reuse is an important, integral component of water-resources management. With increasing demands in areas with limited fresh water supplies, its use may be the only feasible way of supplementing water resources, thereby conserving and extending potable-water resources. Because we continually produce and treat wastewater, it may be a more reliable irrigation supply than fresh water in times of shortage.

Reclaimed water often is the most economical option for increasing a community's water resources. It is typically priced less than potable water--sometimes as an incentive--thus resulting in cost savings to the user. Also, golf courses can save additional money due to the presence of nutrients in reclaimed water, which may reduce the need for fertilizers. The community benefits by eliminating or delaying the costs associated with obtaining additional sources of fresh water. Irrigating with reclaimed water that would otherwise be discharged into environmentally-sensitive surface waters eliminates a source of contamination in those waters. It is often less costly to produce reclaimed water suitable for golf-course irrigation than to provide a high level of treatment necessary for discharge into many surface waters.

Reclaimed water treated by conventional wastewater-treatment processes to remove or reduce the concentration of chemical and microbiological components has proven to be safe and acceptable for golf-course irrigation, as evidenced by the more than 200 U.S. golf courses currently irrigating with reclaimed water.

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