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Brown is the New Green

By Mya Galindo

Palm Spring, California has been constantly named a top destination for  America’s golfers.   With over 300 days of sunshine, Palm Springs has earned its reputation as a country club safe haven located in Coachella Valley.  Palm Springs boasts over 100 renowned courses; these 18 hole-paradises dramatically change the scenery from a dry desert to green heaven.  Driving through Palm Springs, drivers are welcomed into an oasis of perfectly manicured lawns that sweep on for many acres; however, these desert oases come at a cost: water, and a lot of it. To maintain these luscious lawns, there is an absurd amount of water that is needed.  

There are approximately 15,500 golf courses in America (Golfspan). These large green courses have become a fixture of the American dream, Florida alone hosts more than 1200 courses, with California following next with just over 900 courses.  The average 18-hole golf course sprawls up to 115 acres or more and requires up to “90 million gallons of water per year, enough to fill 136 Olympic-size swimming pools” (CAG). A country club spends upwards of $500,000 a year on the water to maintain that pristine country club look; after all, when it’s a members-only club, they expect nothing but the best. Country clubs see it as a necessary expense to pay a premium price to maintain its plush appearances.

To maintain these green dreams, golf course owners are wasting millions of gallons of water.  This is water that can be better allocated elsewhere, for example, the farmers in the central valley of California who are in desperate need of water. California is facing a  historic drought with the driest water year in a century.  Reservoirs are in danger of running dry for the first time.  California’s 40 million residents rely on these reservoirs for water.  It has become a state emergency with widespread restrictions being put in place; these restrictions apply to California golf courses, but the question remains is it enough to offset the impacts of the drought? 

With the extreme, ongoing drought in California, some golf courses like El Niguel Country Club in Orange County have begun to make changes to preserve water.  Some of these changes include tearing out grass where golf is not played, adding drought-tolerant plants, and letting some areas turn brown. California has made an effort to encourage golf course reduction of grass; this includes programs that offer 2-3 dollars for every square foot of turf. Golf courses in Southern California have begun to replace green lawns with fake ones; however, there needs to be a bigger and stronger effect of reducing water consumption. Replacing lawns with artificial ones is a good start; however, one cannot ignore the millions of gallons of water that are still being poured into these lawns every year. 

The question remains, are golf courses even sustainable?  I agree that time on the putting greens is a pleasant way to spend a Sunday; however, with the increasing drought, some golf courses will have to implement more changes to conserve water or face closure.  

These green lawns are also not welcomed by everyone in the community. Most golf courses belong to a country club that members have to pay a hefty membership fee for.  These memberships can range from a hundred to thousands of dollars a month, making these clubs very exclusive.  These millions of gallons of water that are poured into the ground each year are a perk that only a small portion of Americans can enjoy. 

On the other hand, while Californian golf courses consume as much as 828 billion gallons of water a year, farmers in the central valley face the tough reality of letting crops and orchards die to conserve the little water they have. California is one of the world’s largest agriculture producers, millions of people rely on California’s water supply to support their livelihood, and millions more depend on it to put food on their dinner tables. It is hard to remain ignorant of the serious injustice occurring in California’s water supply change. These country clubs are private facilities where most members of the community would not be welcomed; however, everyone benefits from California agriculture. With climate change progressing and drought conditions worsening,  it’s time to embrace brown as the new green.  Water needs to be used sparingly and used wisely because people’s lives and living hood depend on it. It’s out with the green, and in with the brown; it’s time to let golf course lawns die and reallocate water where it is most needed.  

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