A Reckoning for Southwestern Golf Courses

Amid a growing water crisis, more cities are cracking down on ornamental uses of grass and golf course greens.

2 minute read

August 3, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of green colf course next to rocky desert cliffs in Moab, Utah

Golf course in Moab, Utah. | lightphoto2 / Adobe Stock

As water in the Southwest becomes an increasingly scarce resource, cities with high water usage are being forced to rethink their priorities. In St. George, Utah, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, golf has long been one of those priorities, writes Samuel Shaw in High Country News. 

As Shaw explains, “St. George’s water rates are among the lowest in the West, which results in bigger profits for course operators and more affordable green fees, but also disincentivizes conservation.” And keeping golf courses green year round in the hot, arid desert environment takes around 177 million gallons of water per year for each course—“roughly eight times the national average.”

The popularity of golf in the area and historically low water costs are taking their toll. “Few cities in the Southwest use more water per person: nearly 300 gallons a day. And a hefty portion of that, over half, goes to keeping ornamental grass, lawns and golf courses lush in an arid region where water supplies are dwindling every day.”

But the tide may be turning against the sacrosanct sport and the wasteful use of water: “In 2022, the city of Ivins, an exurb of St. George, effectively banned the construction of new golf courses, while early this year, state Rep. Douglas Welton, R, introduced House Bill 188, which could require golf courses to be more transparent about how much water they use.” For now, the city has passed new water conservation ordinances. Elsewhere in the Southwest, Las Vegas passed some of the strictest conservation measures, targeting ornamental uses and golf courses

Monday, July 31, 2023 in High Country News

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