Want to save water? Close the damn golf courses

Golf sucks anyway

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All you need to play basketball is a ball and a hoop (a milk crate mounted to a pole will also suffice).

All you need to play tennis is a ball, a racket, and a net.

All you need to play soccer is a ball and a couple of goals (nets optional).

All you need to play golf is 150 acres of land, at least $350 to buy 14 clubs and a bag, and enough income to afford membership fees if the course you’re playing at is at a private club. If you don’t want to lug your equipment across all 18 holes every time you play, you’ll need to rent a golf cart whenever you play, or pay a caddy. Oh, and the average golf course requires an average of 130,000 gallons of fresh water every day to maintain the grass.

Earlier this week, the US Bureau of Reclamation issued an official declaration of a shortage at Lake Mead — the largest freshwater reservoir in the country — for the first time in history. This means that the four states downstream from the Colorado River that depend on Lake Mead for their water needs (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico) will soon have to make tough decisions.

(Lake Mead levels 20 years ago vs. today. Photo: KLAS-TV)

Already in California, wells are drying up despite the state passing a groundwater preservation law seven years ago, during the last extreme drought. 2,700 California wells are expected to dry up this year alone, with more expected to dry up in the coming years. This means thousands of people are already turning on their faucets to fill glasses, their dog’s bowl, or a pot to boil spaghetti, and nothing comes out.

If political leaders are looking for an easy way to conserve water, allow me to volunteer an idea: Close the damn golf courses.

In Nevada alone — one of the driest states in the country — there are 95 golf courses sucking up an average of 12.3 million gallons of water every day. According to Golfsmash, there are also 921 golf courses in California, 316 golf courses in Arizona, and 79 golf courses in New Mexico. Altogether, golf courses in states that get water from Lake Mead eat up an average of 183.4 million gallons of water every single day.

2015 data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows the average American consumes about 82 gallons of water per day, in between toilet flushing, taking showers, cooking, cleaning, and other everyday tasks. This means New Mexico’s population of 2.097 million people requires an average of 171.9 million gallons of water per day.

For those of you who are good at math, this means golf courses in four Southwestern states. consume 12 million more gallons of water per day than every person in the entire state of New Mexico.

Obviously tackling the climate crisis will require a significant, coordinated mobilization of governments and resources, acting with urgency to conserve resources and consume more sustainably. But in the short term, closing golf courses in dry states can make the dwindling freshwater supply last a hell of a lot longer.

(Desert Highlands golf course in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo: GolfLifeNavigators.com)