Case Studies

Water Conservation in Spain

Golf courses in Spain address water scarcity.

Water is a scarce resource in southern Spain  
2nd January 2013
Using water efficiently,Working with nature,Managing for healthy grass

Spain, and particularly its southern coastal strip, has often been criticised for its proliferation of water demanding Golf Courses.  The Royal Spanish Golf Federation published guidance on the management of water on Spanish golf courses for the first time in 2003 and many of these courses have now resolved water availability issues.

La Manga cuts water use
La Manga Club, situated an hour from Alicante, has three 18-hole championship golf courses and has hosted the Spanish Open. The La Manga Club resort in Spain has seen significant reductions to both its water usage and energy consumption after implementing an environmental management plan.

The club’s environmental plan includes the introduction of aerators, flow control and timer mechanisms on taps, leading to a 60% reduction in water consumption in the hotel and Las Lomas village self-catering accommodation. In addition, 70% of the water used to maintain La Manga Club’s three golf courses, eight sports pitches and numerous garden areas is recycled from a wastewater treatment plant.

The La Manga Club resort in Spain has seen significant reductions to both its water usage and energy consumption after implementing an environmental management plan.

Meteorological monitoring is also used in combination with the high-tech irrigation system to optimise water consumption based on environmental conditions.

Solar power now provides 30-40% of the energy required for hot water and the heated pool in the five-star Hotel La Manga Club Principe Felipe, as well as supplying power for the golf clubhouse. With more than 300 days of sun a year in the region, there are plans to extend the use of solar energy across the resort.

“At La Manga Club we are aware how important it is to respect and protect our natural environment and to optimise precious resources for our own benefit and enjoyment and that of generations to come,” said Madeline Adam, La Manga Club’s environment manager. She added: “It is amazing how effective simple measures can be if they are implemented properly and by bringing these in across the resort we've had a huge impact. To have reduced water consumption by 60% already in the hotel and Las Lomas is fantastic and hopefully this is just the beginning.”

Other water conservation measures
A number of clubs across Spain have developed systems to harvest and store water to be used for irrigation of the golf course.  At Arcos Gardens, Cadiz, all drainage across the course channels water towards the course’s lakes which is then used for irrigation.  Alicante Golf, Alicante, operates a similar harvesting and lake storage system.  Away from the coast in the torrid mid-summer heat of Madrid, Real Sociedad Hípica Española Club de Campo, Retamares Golf and Puerta de Hierro recycle water from off the course, storing it for later use in watering the golf course.

Arcos Gardens has drought tolerant native trees  

Clubs that harvest water are, in effect, recycling but an increasing number in Spain are using grey water to irrigate their courses. These include Son Park, Minorca and Torremirona, Girona, which get 100% of their irrigation water and Golf Serres de Pals, Girona which obtains a minimum 85% of its watering requirement from this source.

Alicante has a series of storage lakes and has converted the grass to its green surrounds

Golf clubs have also changed the use of turfgrass species to reduce their reliance on water and/or enable the use of grey water. Arcos Gardens, Cadiz replaced their ryegrass fairways with bermudagrass to save almost 30% water during the summer.  Alicante Golf, Alicante selected bermudagrass from the outset and have since seeded the green aprons with species adapted to the use of saline wastewater. Son Park, Minorca has renovated some greens with turf more receptive to recycled water and salt. Polaris World, Murcia use seashore paspalum for larger areas (fairways, rough, tees) since it tolerates the salinity of their irrigation water. At Retamares Golf, Madrid the initial seeding and subsequent reseeding of the rough was made with fescue as this species is less water consuming. Puerta de Hierro, Madrid has re-seeded the area around the greens and in the rough with Festuca arundinacea, and are introducing Festuca rubra trichophylla as part of the mixture or polystand.

Minimising the area of maintained turf requiring irrigation and utilising native vegetation in out of play areas which tolerates drought has been another ploy for reducing the need for water.

Alicante Golf, Alicante has significantly reduced the turfed areas around the perimeter of the golf course.
Use of native vegetation to the rough at La Torre
There is plenty of native vegetation on the course at Son Park, Minorca. The designer of the Polaris World, Murcia courses always worked with the goal of having the smallest possible area of ​​grass (30 ha for La Torre and El Valle), they have used native plants to replace areas of grass (the best example is El Valle) and on several holes the tees are islands in a sea of native vegetation. Retamares Golf in Madrid have a policy of naturalisation of those areas that do not come into play and do not irrigate the areas that separate holes that influence the game to a lesser extent.  Puerta de Hierro, Madrid has reduced irrigated areas on the course by 20%, stopping irrigation completely in large areas between the tees and the fairways.


Finally, clubs have upgraded their irrigation systems to optimise water conservation.  Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Madrid has increased pumping efficiency (thus reducing power consumption and improving irrigation efficiency), computerised the system, and replaced 80% of the sprinklers. These changes have allowed for irrigation to be made only at night, thereby reducing evapotranspiration.

Alicante Golf, Alicante now use management software and a weather station to better control irrigation, have replaced and adjusted the distribution of sprinklers to reduce unnecessary overlap of green surrounds, replaced pumps for more efficient irrigation, and installed monitoring tools such as flow meters so they can better manage their water use.  Son Park, Minorca are still using manual irrigation in certain areas to concentrate water only where they want it.  Polaris World, Murcia has many small sprinklers to irrigate with precision and save water.

Real Sociedad Hípica Española Club de Campo, Madrid has invested steadily in the irrigation network and the pumping to minimise consumption (conversion of existing watering pipe structure, power inverters, analysis of daily temperatures to decide the amount of water to irrigate, etc).  Retamares Golf, Madrid has upgraded the entire irrigation system with the intention of making more efficient use of water and energy. At Puerta de Hierro, Madrid the design of the irrigation system has been modified to have sprinklers installed over 450 sectors where there had been full circle sprinklers, reducing the turn in these cases by half. They have also added 12 satellites to identify sprinklers, so they now irrigate each zone separately instead of together as before. This way they have managed to increase efficiency and reduce consumption by 20%.

Developing a water conservation culture
The highlighted clubs in Spain have taken steps to address water scarcity in a hot and dry part of the world.  Through investment in water harvesting and storage, use of grey water, re-grassing with less water-demanding species and reducing irrigated areas, and installing the latest in irrigation technology, these clubs have secured water supplies for the immediate future and will, no doubt, continue to investigate means of further reducing their reliance on this precious resource.