"Mekong River diverted into Thailand's waterways, worrying drought-stricken neighbours like Vietnam," says a recent headline. "Drought exacts toll on crops in region," says another. And "China has embarked on an unprecedented 'water diplomacy' mission to alleviate the drought in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam by discharging massive quantities of fresh water downstream from one of its dams," says a third article.
The recent R&A Seminars on Sustainable Golf Course Design, Renovation and Maintenance in Asia, held in early March in Beijing and then in mid-March near Bangkok, were timely in addressing the use of water (and other resources) on golf courses.
At these seminars, I spoke about how one can optimize the playing conditions of the golf course while minimizing inputs of resources such as water.
This 12 page handout has details of what I discussed, and includes links to articles and all my presentations.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of water required is to minimize the area of maintained turf.
Another way to reduce the water requirement is to use drought tolerant species. In particular, one can produce the best surfaces with the fewest inputs by using native species.
I also explained how to calculate the irrigation water requirement for any area of turf. First, estimate the water use by evapotranspiration, then subtract the quantity of effective rainfall and adjust for the surface area to be irrigated. Then, make further adjustments for the distribution uniformity of the irrigation system and the salinity of the water, and one is left with the quantity of water required as irrigation.
It is quite useful to have this number, and especially to make that calculation for a drought year. In that way, the necessary amount of water storage can be built, or one can adjust the turfgrass area or turfgrass species to make sure the golf course will be sustainable in terms of water.
If there isn't enough water for irrigation, then some grasses will die. Seashore paspalum is the grass that requires the most water to survive in Southeast Asia, and it dies when irrigation water is not supplied. Calculating the irrigation water requirement and planning to have that much water available can be quite useful. As this article states, regarding the current drought, and planning for water availability in such conditions:
Such long-term planning is unfortunately uncommon, say agriculture experts. Dr Leocadio Sebastian, a Vietnam-based regional programme leader for the Consultative Group On International Agricultural Research, says governments tend to be reactive. "They tend to favour relief intervention."
For golf course turf, one can't expect relief intervention, so it is better to plan ahead by choosing grasses that require fewer inputs.