Golf clubs' water plans under spotlight ahead of Day Zero

2018-01-29 19:06
The Devonvale golf course. (Devonvale website)

The Devonvale golf course. (Devonvale website)

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Cape Town - A Stellenbosch golf club manager who went to great lengths to keep his struggling greens alive ahead of Day Zero, had to explain himself on Monday amid heightened sensitivity over water consumption during the drought in the Western Cape.

"It is not potable water. You can't do anything with it," said Ryno Bernardo, manager of Devonvale Golf Club outside Stellenbosch, after an outcry over his post that he secured 100 megalitres of water to keep the grass on his golf course green through the drought.

Devonvale had posted on its website: "We have managed to secure a 100 million litres of water supply from a property down the road from Devonvale. We have rights to the water as long as the property owner has enough for his own needs (their usage is very small).

"The installation of the 1.8km pipeline is well underway, with only 600 [metres] to go before we can start pumping."

Contacted by News24, Bernardo said the water will be piped in from the clay tile quarry next door, but added that it was of such a poor quality, that even the kikuyu grass at the golf course will not survive unless it is treated first.

"Even for grass it is very harmful," he said.

He said that he intended to apply for a permit to use the water but he has not done so yet.

"It is sort of in the process, but it takes quite a while," said Bernardo. "We've consulted with a consultant who basically advised us," he said, conceding that the official application was not in yet.

"We need the water now," he added.

Comment was not immediately available from his neighbour, but Bernardo said he did this to keep sought-after tourist bookings and keep the business viable until rain comes.

ALSO READ: Eastern Cape water crisis deepens

News24 asked Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation, if Bernado was allowed to use his neighbour's quarry water, and if he needed a permit.

"The DWS could not find any paperwork that we gave them permission to use that water.

"The pipeline does not require permission if it does not cross a watercourse, but the taking of water from the quarry as well as the irrigation of that water requires permission in terms of section 21 of the NWA, 1998.

"At the moment we cannot find any proof of permission for such use. We will let our enforcement team look into this."

'We are struggling'

Bernado said older golfers found it difficult to walk in uneven patches and taking a swing on the sand was harder than on grass.

As it is, golfers do not have to worry about fishing their balls out of Devonvale's ponds, because they have dried up to the extent that all the fish were removed last Friday.

The Atlantic Beach Country Club near Melkbosstrand on the West Coast, where President Jacob Zuma traditionally plays a few holes the day after his State of the Nation Address, already has an effluent water treatment plant on site.

Owner Allen Usher said it irrigates with the treated effluent from over 800 houses on the country club's estate, and the houses in Melkbosstrand - about 5 000 in total.

However, the residents' saving during the water restrictions is hitting them hard, and so the club now only irrigates the greens and the tees, leaving the fairways to cope on their own.

"We're struggling because we're only getting half the amount we normally get," said Usher, adding that the club itself had also made changes such as fitting aerated taps and using paper towels instead of napkins.

The Steenberg Estate and Golf Club in Tokai, uses a pipeline it built over 9km from the Cape Flats Waste Water works to the Steenberg Estate in order to irrigate the golf course and environs, said estate manager John Sterrenberg.

Yellow and slightly clumpy grass

Maintained by the estate and club, the effluent is treated at the estate and used to irrigate the golf course and environs, flower beds and grass verges.

"Estate management is extremely aware of its duty to prevent wastage and as such the irrigation system is timed and controlled by an advanced computer system which strictly regulates the time, volume, dispersion and spread of water to the various tee boxes, greens and fairways," he said.

It also made changes to its public facilities, such as asking members to bring their own towels, and uses a borehole to augment the municipal supply to the club house.

Henk Smith, president of the Western Province Golf Union, said none of the golf courses in the province have been using municipal drinking water and added that municipalities were "very strict" with them. He said while people may think clubs were using water from Theewaterskloof Dam, it is not the case.

The grass at his own club in Bellville is becoming yellow and slightly clumpy, but they are carrying on regardless of this to keep the business going and staff paid.

One golfing drought casualty was the moving of the Sunshine Tour's Cape Town Open from the Royal Cape Golf Club, to the King David Mowbray Golf Club because the grass was struggling.

Asked whether golfers were blaming the drought and dry ground for a bad game, he chuckled: "Yes, we all have."

"On the fairway you can still place the ball. You can put it on a piece of grass. If you are in the rough, then you can blame the drought."

Read more on:    cape town  |  water

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