The R&A - Working for Golf

Costa del Sol leads the way in use of recycled water

37 Spanish courses have taken advantage of non-potable supply to irrigate their turf.

The Costa del Sol, on Spain’s southern coast, enjoys a climate that makes it possible to play golf for more than 300 days a year.  Its weather gives its tourist industry a huge advantage over more northerly European golf destinations, but it also puts its turfgrass under considerable heat and drought stress.  Spain cannot afford to use huge amounts of water from the public network for the irrigation of golf courses and as a result its regional authorities are promoting the use of recycled water to supply its golf facilities.  

The UN considers the Mediterranean coast of Spain to be over-exploited when it comes to water stress in river basins.  Thankfully, in addition to being a leading golf tourist destination, the Costa del Sol is also at the vanguard of supplying golf courses with recycled water for irrigation.

The public water company, Acosol, is the European leader when it comes to supplying recycled water for the irrigation of golf courses.  Currently, they provide around 7,000 million litres of recycled water a year to 37 of the 70 or so courses on the Costa del Sol.

Spanish regulations state that all new golf courses must be irrigated with recycled water and that existing courses must do so as far as is possible. However, in practice, this is not always easy to fulfil, dependent, as it is, on the existence of a local purification plants as well as the necessary pipes to take the water to the golf courses. These are costly infrastructures but Acosol is investing millions of Euros to extend its supply network.

Obtaining data on the irrigation of golf courses in Spain and in other countries around the world is not an easy task, as there is no entity responsible for compiling such information.  Nevertheless, golf has invested in the OnCourse® online data recording and reporting system, developed by the GEO Foundation and, over time, it is hoped that more and more facilities around the world will utilise this service and provide valuable information to help golf address concerns over its environmental performance.  But, in the meantime, the authorities in the Costa del Sol are to be congratulated for the successes they have already achieved in the use of recycled water at a time when sustainable usage of water is more vital than ever before.