using reclaimed wastewater for golf coursesCave Creek, Ariz., is known for its eclectic shopping, art galleries and beautiful Sonoran Desert landscapes. It’s also home to a popular golf course nestled near several suburban homes. Maintaining an elite golf course in any climate can be a chore, but Arizona’s dry heat poses an extra challenge.

According to Audubon International, a not-for-profit environmental education organization, the average American golf course uses 312,000 gallons of water per day to keep their grass green. What’s more astounding is that courses in desert climates often require triple that amount — a million gallons a day per course! That’s equivalent to how much water an American family of four would use in four years.

Complicating the issue is the area’s dependency on tourism dollars. U.S. Water News Online reports that while Arizona golf courses consume approximately 5 percent of the state’s water, they also contribute upwards of $1 billion annually to the economy. Courses rely on their pristine turf to attract golfers, so simply watering less poses a threat to the state’s financial health. Jeff Bollig, spokesperson for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, says the number one reason avid golfers choose a course is for its playing conditions, followed by its service and amenities.

Fortunately, the Cave Creek community is well aware of its limited natural resources and has taken a forward thinking approach to these rising issues.  The town even has its own volunteer group, Green Cave Creek, which fosters sustainability.

When it came time to replace its aging wastewater treatment plant, the town consulted with Burns & McDonnell. “Given the ongoing drought in the Southwest, Cave Creek officials are particularly interested in solutions that promote water reuse and lessen the strain on existing resources,” explains Bob Schultz, Burns & McDonnell project manager.

Using this information, the team developed a way to use 100 percent of the reclaimed water from the new wastewater treatment system to irrigate the parched course. The new treatment facility uses a multi-phased process that includes a rotary drum screen, vortex grit removal, biological treatment, cloth disc filtration, and a chlorine contact basin to safely treat the water. The water is then discharged into the course’s ponds via a newly built 4-mile network of forcemain.

So far the solution has proved better than par for the Cave Creek community; the course is able to increase its environmental responsibility while retaining its clientele. Moreover, the new system was made affordable thanks in part to $2 million in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding.

Ken Erickson is a marketing coordinator in Burns & McDonnell’s Denver office. When he’s not using a variety of tools, resources and his love of storytelling to create effective marketing materials and messages for the company, he enjoys exploring all that Denver–and the surrounding region–have to offer.

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