Maintenance Update - Water Management


by Dean Piller, Superintendent 

With the present water restrictions being imposed on Vancouver Island Golf Courses, I think it is important to look at the tools and science behind irrigating golf courses, as well as the important role irrigated grass plays in an urban environment.

While reading the newspaper a couple of weeks ago, I came across an article describing a new term for someone who waters their lawn....' A grasshole.'  At first I laughed, but then after I contemplated this mindset I felt it would be useful to dive deeper into the benefits of irrigated turf and touch on domestic water consumption per household.   A rough breakdown of household consumption shows that roughly 85 percent of household consumption is for bathing and toilet use, 10 percent for cleaning dishes and laundry, and 5 percent for lawn and garden. This 5 percent water consumption for your lawn and garden comes with many benefits; these include pollution filtration, erosion control, weed control, carbon sequestration and the lowering of outside temperatures.  Golf courses play an important part in sustaining a healthy environment, and we go to great lengths here at Cordova Bay to do so. 

At Cordova Bay our irrigation water supply comes from 3 sources - an aquifer, two wells that are located on the property, and the CRD water supply.  We are very fortunate to be part of the Elk Lake aquifer that feeds into the springs located under the tenth tee.  This water accounts for approximately 40% of our requirements and flows freely into our irrigation pond throughout the year. Our second source of water is supplied by a well on the Ridge Golf Course and a well near 18 green that we use primarily in the high irrigation months of June through August.  Our third and final source of water is supplied through CRD's domestic water source, this accounts for the balance of our irrigation requirements. 


This domestic source of water comes with a cost, so everything we can do to conserve water is very important to us.  The water saving strategies and technologies we have developed over the past 2 decades have certainly reduced our consumption of this valuable resource, and we will continue to look for new ways to reduce consumption over the years to come.


The Cordova Bay Property covers approximately 200 acres, included in this acreage is Mattick's Farm, the 9 hole Ridge Course and the 18 hole Bay Course.   When we decided to reduce our water usage, identifying areas that we could remove irrigation from was the most logical starting point.  Of the 200 acres, we irrigate approximately 12 acres of greens and surrounds, 8 acres of tees and surrounds, 25 acres of fairways, 65 acres of rough and 5 acres of landscaped areas, this leaves approximately 85 acres or 40% of our property receiving no irrigation.  

These numbers were made possible by the reduction of 12 acres that have been naturalized during the completion of our Audubon Certification, which therefore no longer require regular irrigation.  Once our irrigated acreage was reduced, we then developed management programs that would further reduce irrigation requirements and improve soil and plant health.  These programs include:

  • Physical and chemical soil tests that are taken throughout the year, including a POGO soil moisture meter that is used daily.
  • Wetting agents that are used during the irrigation season to help retain moisture in the turf grass root zone to further reduce hydrophobic areas.
  • All irrigation water flows through magnets, which changes the molecular structure of water making it 15% more effective. 
  • We are conservative with our nightly computer controlled irrigation cycles and have up to 5 people hand watering daily to help with areas that have poor soils, tree root issues, slopes or poor coverage issues. The POGO readings mentioned earlier are a valuable tool in determining the nightly irrigation cycles and hand watering requirements.

Our moisture meter at work

I hate to say this, because the day is coming soon enough, but the solution to our problems is rain, baby rain.  

Dean Piller - Superintendent