New California laws test golf courses' ability to conserve water

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By Gabriel S. Garcia, Esq.

It's been five months since Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order requiring municipalities across California to cut water use by 25 percent as part of the state's mandatory drought restrictions. Since that time, Californians have accepted the inevitability of water cutbacks and have done their part to increase conservation efforts.  So, too, have golf courses.

As we'll be discussing during the Water Crisis: Strategies to Thrive panel at the upcoming 2015 Golf Inc. Summit, operators have addressed water restrictions in a striking variety of ways. In many instances, courses are taking a "mix and match" approach to cutting back. 

A review of recent press coverage reveals the breadth of water restriction measures that California golf courses are employing:






In addition to the governor order imploring conservation across the state, California is also rolling out the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a sweeping set of new regulations creating the framework for local management of groundwater.  The future of water in California — both its supply and the regulation of that supply — is at an unparalleled crossroads in the state's history with uncertainty abounding.

The golf industry should consider a proactive approach to affecting water policy in the near future. For example, could there be a way to have lawmakers codify certain water use practices for golf courses which, if implemented, could result in a regulatory safe harbor? A tax credit? An exemption from future water restrictions? Real estate development incentives?

There are many unanswered questions posed by this drought.  It will take thoughtful leadership, organization, and collaboration to find solutions that help ensure the continued sustainability of the industry. We look forward to being part of those solutions.

 Gabriel Garcia and Hanspeter Walter will be speaking at the Golf Inc. Summit

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