First thing we do, we kill all the golf courses

The Florida drought has gotten so severe that golf courses are now mandated to use 45% less water – so now they are forced, forced I tell you, to cut back to a mere two million gallons a month each.

Crops are dying but golf courses are allowed to be water pigs so an elite few can continue their blatantly anti-environmental, privileged lifestyle?

What better symbol can there be for the selfishness of a few and the rapacity of capitalism than golf courses being permitted to use huge amounts of water during a severe drought so a few can get wealthier while catering to the elite.

  • Joe Hartley

    Statistically urban areas barely consume drops compared to agriculture. In California, 85% of the water sent south from the Feather River gets used by agriculture, not by urban centers. Nice image about the golf course, though, even if real savings have to come from elsewhere.

  • As usual Joe, your always well-reasoned analysis ends with a stirring call to inaction.

    During a major drought is it not absurd to use that much water to benefit a tiny few when others, or crops, need it more?

  • Joe Hartley

    My point is somewhat different: the amount of water diverted from golf courses would probably be insufficient to irrigate even a comparable area of crops. Whatever marginal benefit of that irrigation–and we’d have to see what crops it would go to–would be at least partially balanced by a local environmental problem of a dead area around the golf course. Would that be severe? Would it be overgrown by something noxious like kudzu, or provide a refuge for rats or gators or illegal immigrants (I include the latter with tongue-in-cheeck) or Democratic voters? (here, I channel Katherine Harris). I have no idea. We’d have to ask somebody who knew about the botanical environment in southern Florida.

    My purpose is not, as you like to put it, a “call to inaction,” but rather to think before you leap, an old adage but still valuable.

    To address your point more directly, I suspect that I do favor inaction over action, particularly when it comes to governments. Inaction and caution would have saved us Vietnam, the second Iraq war, and most of the intervention in Latin America that has slaughtered hundreds of thousands, if not millions. In most cases governments rush to judgment, which is rarely a good thing. “Hurry up and do something” makes sense when addressing an existing national disaster like Katrina, but less sense in other areas. The Patriot Act is one such example of act in haste, repent at leisure.

    The problems you discuss on this blog are difficult and complex, and I don’t have any simple answers for it. One of the questions I would want to ask, for example, is where are the golf courses located and who uses them. I’m not a golfer, so my knowledge is limited even in my own area, but even on the west side of Los Angeles, I can only count 4 or 5 golf courses, and one of them is the public golf course, Penmar, in Venice that provides one of the few green areas in that community. Not all golf courses are private, discriminatory clubs, and even those that are may provide some break in urban density. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it’s not an improbable analysis, and needs to be developed before making a decision. Gut-level, instinctual reactions on such questions are as likely to be wrong as right…and probably more so.

  • In 5-10 years, as water shortages in southern California and the southwest get increasingly serious, golf courses in semi-arid and desert areas (Palm Springs has dozens) will be viewed as destructive, criminal, and in the way that dumping raw sewage into rivers and the oceans is viewed now, even though it was acceptable at one time to do so.

    Or you can pretend the water shortages will somehow be magically remedied, that business as usual will somehow continue, without having to actually do anything.

    However, global warming is showing the do-nothing approach will not work. Action is needed, now.

  • DJ

    I put a detailed post up earlier, but it seems to have gone astray. I would like to note, though, on Joe’s topic, that according to information on, a Las Vegas golf course is expected to use 6.5 acre feet of water per acre per year. That compares with 4 acre feet of water per acre per year to irrigate cropland here in southern Utah. (UT is the second-driest state behind NV.) Water conservation in both areas can cut that usage dramatically when there is incentive to do so. (Unfortunately, Utah law discourages such conservation.)

    BTW, an acre foot of water is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre (43,560 square feet) with water 1 foot deep– in other words, 43,560 cubic feet of water or 325,836 gallons. So it takes 2.1 million gallons of water per acre per year to maintain a golf course in Las Vegas, as compared with 1.3 million gallons per acre per year of cropland here in Utah. Of course, our cropland doesn’t grow year-round because of snow in the winter.

  • Joe Hartley

    Furthering DJ’s post, my recollection, from when I was working on water issues back in the eighties, is that California Central valley farmers typically used 15 to 20 acre-feet per year, or tried to. Whatever the numbers were, they were considerable multiples of the Utah experience, which, given the climate and the snow runoff in Utah, isn’t surprising.

    As for Bob’s post, I’m simply pointing out that cutting off the golf courses immediately may produce all sorts of other problems. In the long run, golf may have to be limited to Scotland, where it rains and is green and where that Calvinistic sport belongs, anyway. When they subdivide the golf courses, Bob may not like that, either, though.

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