Golf course water use needs other solutions
Lawmakers are considering a measure to require new golf courses to use some recycled water for irrigation.
REQUIRING new golf courses to use some recycled water on fairways and greens sounds like a good way to conserve Hawaii's drinking supplies, but the devil, as always, is in the details.
As House lawmakers review a bill that calls for new courses to install dual-line systems for potable and nonpotable water, other issues should be considered.
The bill is in response to the state Water Commission's approval of a Waiawa developer's plan to drill wells to tap into drinking water supplies for two golf courses in Central Oahu. At present, the commission has the option to direct dual-line systems for commercial and industrial projects, and legislators want to eliminate the option.
The Waiawa courses will need about a million gallons a day. When compared to all of Oahu's average daily consumption of 157 million gallons, the amount for irrigating just two courses is extravagant, especially as demand for water rises with each new residential development.
The bill's intent is to better manage supplies of drinking water, but there are problems with a mandate.
In many areas, recycled water, mostly recaptured from treated wastewater, isn't readily available, so imposing the requirement could be burdensome. However, if there is a source, using drinkable water for irrigation should be restricted either through allocations or by imposing high fees for pumping.
Using surface water, as a golf course on privately owned Lanai does, would be near impossible on Oahu and other islands because of continuing legal and cultural disputes about flows into streams and rivers.
Maui County already has restrictions for new courses. Of the 36 golf courses on Oahu, 27 use drinking water. Lawmakers might do better to require that the established operations install recycled-water irrigation as soon as supplies become available and to invest in rainwater catchment systems as well.
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