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Blog Article

Golf's water problem is not going away. We can help courses conserve up to 85% more water

Editorial Team
Golf's water problem is not going away. We can help courses conserve up to 85% more water
May 30, 2023

Over the past few decades, the golf industry in the US has come under sustained scrutiny for its significant consumption of water. In recent years, this scrutiny has intensified due to changing weather patterns that have led to prolonged drought conditions in many parts of the country, particularly western US. The public perception of golf courses watering seemingly lush greens and fairways amidst dry environs has not helped. These are just some of the reasons why starting as far back as 2014, several states including California, Arizona, and Nevada have directed golf courses to reduce water consumption and implement more sustainable maintenance practices for water conservation on golf courses.

The golf industry and water savings & conservation

Conscious of this problem, the golf industry has been actively working to reduce its consumption of water. The United States Golf Association (USGA) has made water conservation a top priority and its water conservation efforts have been instrumental in motivating many golf courses to adopt more sustainable practices to maintain their tees, greens and fairways. USGA executive director Mike Whan remains focused on water conservation and was recently reported as saying that he’d like to see a “45% reduction” in golf course water usage in the next 15 years.

Enterprising golf superintendents across the country have also taken the initiative, adopting sustainable practices such as using recycled water for irrigation, growing drought-resistant grass, investing and participating in research for water-efficient growing techniques and grass varieties, and installing smart irrigation systems to reduce water consumption.

But as water shortages continue with no signs of a respite, more radical solutions are required. This is where Capillary Hydroponics, a revolutionary irrigation system, comes in. The proprietary system reduces water consumption by up to 85% while ensuring stronger and more durable turfgrass with significantly less maintenance and environmental impact.

The good news and the bad

US golf facilities applied approximately 1.68 million acre-feet of water in 2020, a 29% reduction since 2005, according to a 2021 survey conducted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. The report added that two-thirds of the reduction was likely a result of operational golf facilities applying water more efficiently.

This means that the golf industry’s efforts to reduce water consumption are definitely paying off.

The bad news is that this is not enough.

As water shortages continue to persist and even worsen in some parts of the US, several states and environmental groups are taking aim at golf courses as an easy target in the effort to save water.

To get a quick understanding of the public sentiment towards golf courses, look at the following news headlines from 2022 and 2023:


Capillary Hydroponics: A revolutionary irrigation system

All this makes it clear that though current water conservation measures implemented in golf courses have shown positive results, more innovative and disruptive solutions are needed to address the urgent need for water conservation in the sport.

This is where Capillary Hydroponics can prove to be a game changer.

“CapillaryFlow and its founder Martin Sternberg, CGCS, has invented the first ever hydroponic system to grow turfgrass, and it will change the way we build and manage turf in the future.” These are the words of Dr Thom Nikolai, one of the world’s leading scientists in turfgrass.

Capillary Hydroponics is a radical new irrigation system that uses an oxygenated and fertilized moving underground water table to grow turfgrass. In doing so, it decreases water loss and consumption by up to 85% while ensuring that the turfgrass grown is stronger and more durable with significantly less maintenance and environmental impact.

Dr Nikolai is spearheading a study that is comparing Capillary Hydroponics to Variable-Depth Rootzones, the latest in USGA technology, at Michigan State University’s Hancock Turfgrass Research Center. The research, which started in June 2022, is comparing the two systems for economic and environmental impacts, but the focus in the first two years is water consumption. Preliminary results will be out later this year.

Capillary Hydroponics: How it works

At the core of Capillary Hydroponics is Capillary Material, formerly known as Capillary Concrete. This patented and engineered polymer-based pervious concrete is the only building material that can rapidly drain water while also moving water up. Invented in 2009, it is also behind one of CapillaryFlow’s most successful solutions, Capillary Bunkers, which has transformed the way the golf industry constructs and maintains bunkers.

The Capillary Hydroponics system comprises several layers: an impermeable liner that sits on the soil, drainage pipes, drainage gravel, a layer of Capillary Material, washed sand and finally grass. The area under the surface is split into two equally large parts. A control basin filled with water is placed on the outside and has pipes that feed into the middle of each cavity. It automatically oxygenates and pumps fertilized water back and forth between the two sections several times a day, watering the roots as it goes. When the water moves and enters or exits the pores of the root-zone material, the gas exchange increases by up to 6.000%.

The level of the water table is completely controllable and the water moves between each cavity at a fully adjustable rate too. This system minimizes the amount of water required and promotes strong root growth.

Capillary Material ensures a perfectly flat and level base beneath the rootzone, which is crucial for the functioning of a hydroponic system.

How Capillary Hydroponics helps golf courses save 85% water

The benefits of using the Capillary Hydroponics system are many:

  1. The surface performance and moisture levels can be designed purely for purpose of user or sports application.
  2. Ensures consistent ground conditions due to inorganic root-zone materials and subsurface irrigation.
  3. Watering from below leads to less weed and disease pressure.
  4. By irrigating from below, there is reduced surface evaporation decreasing water loss and consumption by up to 85%.
  5. Distribution of fertilizers and pesticides through the water in circulation allows for lower total consumption and near zero leaching.
  6. A constant change of water table allows for better oxygen exchange, up to 6,000% which increases root growth.

To read more on the subject, click on the relevant links: CapillaryFlow, Capillary Hydroponics, Capillary Material, Capillary Bunkers, MSU study.

Would you like to know more about how Capillary Hydroponics can help you save water on your golf course? 

Contact us!


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