Case Studies

Harvesting stormy waters in Australia

Adelaide golf clubs invest heavily to secure an adequate supply of quality water.

Water bodies and wetlands hold storm water  

Adelaide is located in South Australia, the driest State in the driest continent on Earth. The supply of water, in adequate quantity and of adequate quality, is essential to keep turf healthy and to enable preparation of playing surfaces for golf. More than 200 megalitres of water is required each year to maintain each of the three best known courses in the area; The Royal Adelaide, The Grange and Glenelg. Traditionally, most of this has been taken from an aquifer 200 metres below the surface over the four or five dry summer months.

More than 200 megalitres of water is required each year to maintain the course. Traditionally, most of this has been taken from an aquifer 200 metres below the surface over the four or five dry summer months.

The Adelaide Golf Club was formed in 1892, with approval to prefix the title “Royal” being granted in 1923. After playing on courses on the North Parklands and Glenelg, the Club moved to its current home at Seaton links in 1906. The Club was one of the foundation members of the Australian Golf Union in 1898. Nine Open Championships of Australia and sixteen Amateur Championships of Australia have been hosted by the Club and the Australian Ladies Amateur and Open Championships have also been played over the links. The Royal Adelaide has always enjoyed a high ranking on not only National but also World listings.

Resolving water shortage

The future availability of this supply for irrigating golf courses is uncertain. The Government of South Australia is now restricting access to this water and its cost will rise as a consequence. The quality of the aquifer water, as taken from a borehole, for irrigating turf is also questionable as it contains salt at 950 parts per million. This salt accumulates in the rootzone of the greens over the months of irrigation, resulting in stress to the bentgrass and some grass loss by the end of the summer. Aquifer water levels are dropping and salt levels are rising over time.

Through the winter months, the Adelaide area is prone to storms which deposit large quantities of rain. Much of this storm water is discharged into the ocean (Gulf St Vincent), damaging the coastal habitat. The solution for the golf clubs was to collect this storm water which would otherwise have been pumped to the ocean and find some means of cleaning it so that it could be safely used for irrigation.

The project at Glenelg cycles water through a series of wetland cells  

A major engineering project was undertaken at a total cost of $A8 million, which was shared equally between the clubs, the Australian Federal, and South Australian State Governments. The project involved installing the pipework to get the water to the courses and the construction of a series of reed beds within the boundary of each course. The stormwater passes through the reed beds, which filter out contaminants resulting in water that is not only clean enough for irrigation, but of such a quality that it can be injected into the aquifer. The cleaned stormwater contains salt at approximately 100 parts per million, which is lower than Adelaide’s potable water supply. The construction programme and establishment of the reed beds was completed in 2009.

The water bodies created provide a golf feature, as here at Glenelg
The project saves 1,000 megalitres of water a year by using stormwater to replace water drawn from underground water supplies beneath the city.

There is also a notable reduction in the amount of stormwater being discharged into the ocean, reducing turbidity and damage to the environment. Clean water is injected into the aquifer, decreasing the salinity of the underground water supply.

This is an excellent example of golf working with government, supporting the objectives of a major programme, the National Water Initiative, to encourage reuse and recycling.

Getting a return on the investment

The Club now has access to a source of waste water which is clean for use on the course. It has reduced its usage of aquifer water to zero. Future supply is secure and the investment will be recovered over time, when compared to the cost of buying water from the local municipality.

The reed beds provide wetland habitat, enhancing biodiversity and greatly improving the appearance of an area of the course that grew only scrubby vegetation in salty soil.

Storing storm water serves Royal Adelaide and the local community well

With the close co-operation of the Government of South Australia, the club has developed wetlands within its boundaries to clean stormwater runoff that is harvested from the surrounding suburbs. The Royal Adelaide Golf Club should be able to put at least as much water back into the wetlands over winter as it takes out over summer, becoming a net zero user of aquifer water. 

The stormwater is cleaned by the reed beds in the wetland sufficiently to be used for irrigation on the golf course, with any surplus injected back into the underground aquifer.  

The Royal Adelaide Golf Club has begun to inject cleaned stormwater down into the aquifer, conserving the natural water level and adding to the water supply for others. The project has brought significant benefit to the community and great benefit to the golf club.