U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- Desert golf course operators are preparing to
oppose expensive drought-inspired water restrictions, warning that
some courses could be forced out of business.
The industry didn't comment before the Southern Nevada Water
Authority voted unanimously Jan. 23 to declare a drought watch and
charge a premium for golf course water use. But golfers got a second
chance because the vote violated a procedural step in the state
``In the worst case, we're going to see golf courses go out of
business,'' said Stan Spraul, general manager of the Southern
Highlands Golf Club near Las Vegas. ``It's going to impact tourism,
the entire Las Vegas economy.''
The regulations would become effective in June, after approval
from the water authority's members -- Clark County, four cities and
the Las Vegas Water District.
One provision would have golf courses pay a premium unless they
reduce water consumption. Others would limit residential lawn
watering and restrict grass turf in residential yards.
Authority officials presented the restrictions as a way to deal
with an ongoing drought that has partially drained Lake Mead, the
major water supply for southern Nevada, which has 1.5 million
residents and 35 million annual visitors.
A water authority official characterized the measures as ``pricing
incentives,'' and said a southern Nevada golf course that keeps using
the same amount of water after the regulations go into effect in June
would pay $177,500 a year in drought surcharges.
A Nevada Golf Course Owners Association official said members are
alarmed by the stiff penalties for golf courses using more than 5.7
acre feet of water per acre per year. Most golf courses now use about
7 acre feet of water.
``Golf courses have organized and built their courses here with an
understanding of the laws and regulations here,'' said James Endres,
an association lobbyist. ``To change the ... application of these
rules in a short time courts some economic distress, economic
Spraul said industry officials think 3 in 10 visitors to Las Vegas
spend time on golf courses, contributing $300 million a year to the
Members of the Nevada Seniors Coalition also oppose the drought
measures, arguing that the water authority and elected leaders should
freeze residential growth and stabilize water use at present levels.
But officials, including Amanda Cyphers, water authority board
chairwoman and a Henderson city councilwoman, insist the drought plan
is not intended to limit development.
Water authority official Doug Bennett said the concerns of golf
course owners and managers were considered. But he noted the region
is in the third year of the worst drought in the recorded history of
the Colorado River.
``It is obviously not business as usual,'' he said.
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