PHOENIX — It's no secret that water is life in the desert. It also protects the livelihoods of all who live here.
Golf courses are especially vulnerable to water woes. But some of the newer golf courses in north Scottsdale have a unique arrangement with the city. The 1980 Groundwater Management Act prevents new golf courses from using groundwater to irrigate. So, back in 1998, several courses spent millions to help build a state-of-the-art water treatment facility. It can turn sewer water into water that's clean enough to drink in just 24 hours.
"This facility has the ability to put water back into the tap. We're the only facility in the state of Arizona that has a permit for direct potable reuse. We could take this water and we can provide it to people to drink," says Scottsdale Water executive director Brian Biesemeyer. But he's quick to note that is not how the recycled water is currently being used.
Instead, as much as 20 million gallons a day goes to irrigate the golf courses that helped pay for the facility. Greenskeepers also receive water with a lower salt content, which is better for their grass.
While 70% of Scottsdale's source water still comes from the Colorado River, and residents are being urged to conserve, because of the unique arrangement between the golf industry and the city, as much as 1 billion gallons of water has been repurposed over the last three decades.
"Because of this facility, since 2006, we actually put more water in the ground than we take out every year," says Biesemeyer. "We have stopped mining groundwater altogether and have been pushing water into our aquifer."