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A look at how California golf courses are saving water

In this April 25, 2015 picture, golfers drive a cart past dry vegetation at the El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel, Calif. California's epic drought is reshaping the course at El Niguel Country Club and dozens of others statewide. Pressed by the fourth year of bone-dry weather and the threat of state-mandated water cuts, some of the poshest courses in California are ceding back to nature some of their manicured green, installing high-tech moisture monitoring systems and letting the turf they don't rip up turn just a little bit brown. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (AP) — California golf courses are teeing up water conservation measures as the state enters its fourth summer of epic drought. A look at some of the ways they are cutting back:


Most water agencies are offering some sort of turf removal rebate program to residential and commercial customers. Golf courses can get up to $3 for every square foot of turf torn out. Many are replanting with drought-tolerant species for a desert garden look.


Newer technologies such as wireless moisture sensors, evaporation monitors and on-site weather stations allow groundskeepers to irrigate where it is needed, instead of drenching large areas with sprinklers. Golf courses are also converting to drip irrigation systems and high-tech sprinkler heads.


Small changes, such as watering less in areas that don’t get a lot of foot traffic, can help cut back on waste. Many golf courses are now letting the turf turn yellow in hard-to-maintain areas. They are also spreading the word among golfers that the greens might look a little less vivid this summer.


Some are looking to Australia and desert golf havens like Las Vegas for ideas. In Australia, which just emerged from a decade-long drought, some golf courses hooked up to sewer lines and built mini-treatment plants to produce irrigation water. That could make financial sense in California if the dry spell continues and water rates soar. In Las Vegas, a pioneering water agency used satellite-positioning systems attached to golf carts to track exactly which areas of the course got the most foot traffic. The data allowed courses to determine which areas were best for turf removal.

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