May 28, 2009

Poway's Biggest Water Hogs

 Maderas Golf Course, Poway

What a refreshing sight.  Cool, lush, green grass that seems to stretch on forever and ever. Blue, sparkling water.  A forested hillside. Wait a minute....blue, sparkling water? Where did that lake come from? 

That lake happens to be part of Maderas Golf Course in Poway.  There are a total of  3 lakes at Maderas. And 5 waterfalls. And a 25 station driving range and oversize practice putting green


Have you ever wondered how much water  it takes to keep Poway's two golf courses (Stoneridge and Maderas) looking so lush? Well, until recently, I haven't, but now that we are in a "Level 2" water shortage,  and have to deal with a restricted watering schedule, I am beginning to wonder about just how much water the golf courses use.  

Stoneridge and Maderas buy 2 types of water from the city- untreated raw water and treated potable water. The raw water is delivered to the golf courses via a special just-for-them metered pipe that connects to the pipe that brings raw water to Poway.  Potable water is delivered to the golf courses via the regular city pipe system. The chart below shows how much raw and potable water the golf courses bought in  fiscal year (FY) 2007-2008.

Raw and Treated (Potable) Water Sold in Poway FY 20007-2008

Stonerige Raw                    426.06 AF
Stoneridge Potable                 5.27 AF
Maderas Raw                      206.44 AF
Maderas Potable                   12.49 AF
TOTAL     GC                       650.25 AF
Other Potable Water 
Sold in Poway                  13,383.71 AF




The total amount of water used by both golf courses in FY 2007-08 was 650.25 AF.  Just how much water is an acre foot?

An acre-foot is a common unit to measure volumes of water, typically for use in irrigation. One acre-foot is the volume of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to a depth of 1 foot (43,560 cubic feet, approximately 325,851 U.S. gallons, or approximately 1,233.48 cubic meters). On average, 1 acre-foot of water is enough to meet the demands of 4 people for a year. 


Stoneridge and Maderas Golf Courses used 650 acre feet
(= 211,884,613 gallons) during FY 2007-08, enough (on average) to meet the demands of 2600 people.  2600 people is a little more than 5% of all the people living in Poway. 

"But, but , but", you say, "the people of Poway are anything but average."
True.
And, to boot, the water data above is incomplete. Maderas actually uses about half raw/potable water and half well water. (I will explain why in a future blog) And  raw and potable water are not the total kinds of water Poway sells. They also sell reclaimed water for irrigation to users in the industrial park. 

But about 4.6% of all the water that Poway received via San Diego County Water Authority (SDWCA) and sold to Poway customers in 2007-2008 went to the golf courses. It is the water supply from SDWCA that will be cut back by 8% this year.

Stoneridge Golf Course was built in 1962, way before Poway incorporated. Maderas, on the other hand, is just celebrating their 10th year anniversary this year. We had just been through a couple of droughts when the council approved the Maderas Golf Course. It isn't as if we didn't know another one was coming. So why did the council approve of such a water-intense land use that has only limited public benefit? 


Poway will impose new rules regarding irrigation starting July 1st. Residential customers can only water on specific days of the week and for limited length of time. Even-numbered addresses are assigned Sat., Mon. and Wed; odd-numbered addresses get Sun., Tue., and Thurs. Condos, apartments and businesses get Mon., Wed., and Fri. Irrigation is limited to 10 min. per station. Violators are subject to unspecified penalties.

Golf courses can water whenever they damn well please.  And for as long as they desire. They are expected to reduce their total consumption by 8% from the amount they used from July 2006 to Jun 2007 (FY 2006-2007.) If they do not reduce, then penalties will be assessed "equivalent to the severe penalty rate charged by SDCWA."  Or so it says in the June 2, 2009 staff report. Unclear is whether the golf courses must meet their 8% reduction month-by-month or only as a yearly total. And if Poway reduces overall consumption by 8% but the golf courses exceed their allotment, will they still be subject to increased rates that could be, would be charged by SDCWA if Poway had not reduced consumption by 8% or are the golf courses off the hook in that case? 

3 comments:

jeffswpblog said...

From my point of view -- golf courses are maybe the most inefficient use of water in the city. So when a city asks its residents to cut back -- irrigate on special days -- pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to modify their landscape and irrigation to save water -- remove lawns where their families play -- pay more for water and even more because they live on a larger property -- then I think its time to reel in those that so inefficiently use water.

The city is talking about giving $3.3 million of redevelopment funds to PUSD to convert playing fields to artificial turf. Their reasoning - it saves the city water and the PUSD maintenance costs; plus it doesn't come from the general fund so belt-tightening on spending doesn't apply. I consider this an extravagant use of $3.3M for a comparably modest savings in water and maintenance costs. Why isn't the city holding back water to the golf courses? -- let Stoneridge and Maderas pay millions to convert their courses to artificial turf and save the city millions of gallons of water a year. (Potentially over 158 million gallons based on my calculations and data from you and the city.)

Listen now as some on the council insult citizens with lectures about Poway being in a desert and that we must conserve, while drawing lines between low water users and high water users. Poway was in a desert when Stoneridge started, and was still a desert when Maderas started. And then there is the 1996 photo you post in another article showing council member Betty Rexford and past assistant city manager John Fitch looking over the land along Scripps Poway Parkway planning an 18-hole golf course and a resort hotel. I am pretty sure that Poway was a desert area in 1996 as well.

So why did the council approve of such a water-intense land use that has only limited public benefit? Good question.

MissyH20 said...

The irony is that we are in no way near what can be considered even a moderate drought conditions. We are in an era that politicians gain attention by labeling our water levels as a "crisis". According to current water level statistics from John Coleman's San Diego LAFCO Water Symposium Program discussion on April 6, 2009:
"THE FIFTEEN YEAR AVERAGE FOR RAINFALL IN THE CRITICAL NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WATER SHED AREAS ARE NOT AT ALL INDICATIVE OF DROUGHT:

THE AMERICAN RIVER WATER SHED AREA AVERAGE 15 YEAR RAINFALL IS 102 % OF NORMAL

SACRAMENTO RIVER WATER SHED AREA RAINFALL IS 77 % OF NORMAL

STANISLAUS RIVER WATER SHED AREA RAINFALL FOR THE PERIOD IS 96 % OF NORMAL.

RAINFALL THIS YEAR FOR MEASURING STATIONS STATE WIDE RUN FROM 75 % TO 105% OF NORMAL.

AT THIS TIME, THE SIERRA SNOW PACK AVERAGES 80 % OF NORMAL."

So our city officials must realize that characterizing current water levels as a "crisis" and "drought" is a fraud.

(Your neighborhood water reclaimer)

Anonymous said...

powayblog.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.