Stone Mountain implements water conservation best practices

Georgia superintendents promote environmentally friendly efforts

Anthony L. Williams, CGCS
Stone Mountain Golf Club, Stone Mountain, Ga.

Stone Mountain Golf ClubStone Mountain Golf Club (SMGC) is part of the 3,200 acre Stone Mountain Park located 16 miles from downtown Atlanta. Recognized as an environmental leader, the SMGC is a vital green space amidst urban sprawl.

The SMGC, along with other Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association (GGCSA) member clubs, developed an extensive best management practices (BMP) program that has been adopted statewide. The GGCSA submitted written BMPs for water conservation plans for 90% of its member clubs.

Water management

We filed our BMP plan for water conservation with state officials in January 2006. Water management is the cornerstone of our agronomic programs. Submitting our plan early enabled us to provide support for 28 other golf courses as they developed their water management programs. The SMGC hosted two Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) regional seminars:

  • Advanced Turfgrass Irrigation Water Quality: Assessment
  • Management and Recycled Water Irrigation

These seminars were held in conjunction with a state BMP water symposium in January 2007. This event began the statewide effort to help every golf operation in Georgia develop and implement BMPs for a written water conservation and management plan.

Knowledge sharing

Stone Mountain Golf ClubEducation and training sessions are important steps toward developing and implementing a BMP plan. The SMGC staff attended 50 hours of education in water management during 2006 and 2007. The classes helped establish our BMPs for water conservation and management. This training helped our staff to be more efficient when scouting and watering. It also exposed our staff to the latest technologies in wetting agents and cultural practices. Using the information learned from training, we developed and implemented best management practices for water conservation and management. Check out the GGCSA’s BMP template.

Important elements included within the SMGC water conservation and management plan are:

The site assessment

  • Identifies the surface area, soils, and species
  • Delineates and incorporates all play areas and non-play areas appropriately
  • Reviews and describes maintenance practices and technology
  • Checks the greens for mowing heights and frequency
  • Reviews irrigation practices and equipment 

The irrigation audit

  • Identifies the system’s efficiency
  • Reviews controllers and other equipment to ensure courses incorporate modern and appropriate technology

Identify overall water needs:

  • Consider BMPs for tracking, reporting, and monitoring
  • Metering
  • Record keeping
  • Water testing
  • Review water sources and identify potential alternative sources
  • Project future needs

Best management practices and water conservation measures:

  • Costs for irrigation, staffing, scouting, and hand watering
  • Night watering capacity and capability
  • Monitoring leaks and efficiency
  • Monitoring rain
  • Using evapotranspiration rates
  • Integrated pest management practices (IPM)
  • Materials and species selection
  • Fertilization
  • Irrigation methodology
  • Wetting agents
  • Education
  • Record keeping

Water conservation plan and/or drought management plan:

  • Identify reasons
  • Include counter measures for drought
  • Proper equipment maintenance
  • Increased mowing heights
  • Reduced mowing of select areas
  • Increased hand watering
  • Future upgrades for better conservation

Water management and conservation plan

In addition to developing the BMPs into a working plan for water management and conservation, SMGC has taken specific steps toward better water management. Those steps include:

  • Working with the University of Georgia to develop a detailed water quality testing program
  • Monitoring key water quality indicators at various test sites throughout the property

The test samples are taken semiannually from designated sites marked on our property map as part of our Audubon International environmental plan. Our water quality testing locations include our irrigation intake sites and selected surface water and drain outfalls. The success of this program was instrumental in our certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf Courses.

The SMGC utilizes a Landa Wasterstax self-contained wash water system to manage wash water.

  • This greatly reduces our operations impact on the local watershed.
  • Aqua Engineers help us maintain our waste water bio remediation technology. They perform preventive maintenance on the equipment and supply us with a blend of microbes that naturally breakdown wastes.
  • These programs and technologies are critical parts of our overall water management plan.

When we irrigate we utilize the latest in water control technology. Our Rainbird irrigation system covers 126 acres and provides tools to make better water management decisions. The infrastructure of our irrigation system consists of:

  • Four 75hp main pumps
  • Sprinkler heads (1,237)
  • Air vent valves (12)
  • Isolation valves (34)
  • Rainbird par plus controllers (15)
  • Quick couplers (44)
  • Freedom radio controls and extensive grounding to help protect water resources

The system is operated by a Nimbus II Central Control System. Features include:

  • Utilization of ET-based programs
  • Cycle and soak enhancements to maximize uptake of water on severe slopes
  • Proper water management throughout our diverse topography
  • GPS mapping and water budget to make it easier to adjust watering schedules
  • A Rainbird global service plan has 24-hour technical support
  • A Rainbird certified central control operator on staff

The SMGC has completed several water quality related projects in the last year. Projects included:

  • Use of hydraulic dredge and GEO-Tube technology to remove silt from Stone Mountain Lake (the silt came from construction outside the park)
  • Installation of automatic silt separators, new isolation valves, and conducted monthly preventive maintenance for pump stations
  • Establishing “no spray zones” and vegetative buffers around our water features to help protect water quality and provide habitat

Award-winning work

The synergy created by our environmental programs earned the SMGC the coveted title of the 2006 National Public Course and overall winner of the GCSAA/GolfDigest Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards. Being proactive with water management and conservation had a positive impact almost immediately. Soon after our plan was developed in 2006, the state established level one drought restrictions. As a result of our BMPs, we reduced our water use by 10% during the drought. On average the area receives 52 inches of rain per year. In 2007, we had a deficit of 12.15 inches. In response to the 2007 drought, we achieved a 20% reduction by June 2007, when the state went under level two drought restrictions. This work has helped the golf industry and government officials address the complex issue of the proper use of water resources. As co-chairman of the GGCSA Government Relations Committee, I have seen firsthand the value of this work. GCSAA also recognized the importance of this program by recognizing the GGCSA as the 2007 winner of their Excellence in Government Relations Award. Learn more about the Stone Mountain Golf Club.