Opinions

Lehrer: Published Sun City statistics not entirely correct

Posted 8/18/22

A statewide circulation daily newspaper recently published an article entitled, “Water Hazards; Penalties lacking as golf courses exceed allotments,” which claimed that golf courses are using more water than allocated by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. The Recreation Centers of Sun City Lakes East Golf Course was specifically called out for overuse.

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Opinions

Lehrer: Published Sun City statistics not entirely correct

Posted

A  statewide circulation daily newspaper recently published an article entitled, “Water Hazards; Penalties lacking as golf courses exceed allotments,” which claimed that golf courses are using more water than allocated by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. The Recreation Centers of Sun City Lakes East Golf Course was specifically called out for overuse. 

RCSC officials reviewed the Lakes East usage statistics highlighted in the article and determined that the numbers are incorrect. The newspaper’s reporter combined usage for both Lakes East and Lakes West and compared the combined usage to only the ADWR water allotment for Lakes East. Due to this error, the water usage graph in the article is greatly exaggerated. In addition, the article alludes that the golf industry in general is not applying any conservation efforts in its practices.

However, it fails to mention that RCSC officials have been extremely diligent in its water conservation efforts on its golf courses through numerous conservation projects completed since 2006. It also does not mention the budget approved for further conservation projects, such as turf removal, irrigation upgrades, lake liner replacement and low water use plant conversion. In response, RCSC General Manager Bill Cook submitted an op-ed to the statewide circulation daily newspaper to clarify this disinformation, which I would like to share with you below.

Sun City was built during a time when Arizona was considered to be the Wild West. The State population was a mere 1.3 million and there was plenty of water to go around with few limitations on usage. Golf courses were built with hundreds of acres of wall-to-wall grass and lakes were built with beauty in mind with little regard for conservation.

That was 1960.

Today all Arizonans are very aware of the finite nature of our water resources, and Sun City and the Recreation Centers of Sun City, Inc. (RCSC), the owner and operator of all Sun City recreational facilities, are at the forefront of implementing water conservation measures. Since 2006, RCSC has invested nearly $14 million in golf course water conservation projects, including turf reduction, irrigation upgrades and low water use plant conversion. In addition, RCSC’s Board approved RCSC’s budget of an additional $20 million in similar projects, in addition to the relining of its lake at a cost of $8 million.

Sun City and the RCSC are not taking water conservation lightly! From 2004 to 2009 RCSC’s golf courses underused their Arizona Department of Water Resources water allocation by an average of 133.94 acre-feet per year.

However, RCSC was seeing increased water usage from its Lakes East golf course well. After an engineering study was completed, it was determined that the RCSC Viewpoint Lake, which stores irrigation water for RCSC golf courses, was leaking. The repair estimate was more than $9 million, which RCSC did not have at that time. As a result, a request for administrative relief was submitted to ADWR, who in turn granted the relief. This allowed RCSC to exceed its ADWR water allocation with no penalty provided that a plan was developed to continue water conservation.

Today, RCSC has saved enough funds to reline Viewpoint Lake with construction expected to be complete by 2023. In addition, RCSC has budgeted numerous conservation projects, including the reduction of more than 200 acres of turf, the replacement of the remaining, aging irrigation systems and the replacement of current Bermuda grass with a more drought resistant turf.

Since its peak usage in 2012, it is estimated that RCSC has saved nearly 16% in water consumption through the $14 million already spent on water conservation projects. With the implementation of future conservation measures, RCSC expects to reduce water consumption by an additional 15-20%, allowing it to meet and exceed the more stringent water allocation by ADWR’s 5th Management Plan. This equates to more than 1,800 acre-feet per year; enough to supply 5,400 homes.

RCSC is doing its part to be a leader in water conservation to ensure the viability of the oldest active adult community and our great state, and to suggest otherwise, as the reporter did in the recent statewide circulation daily newspaper article, is simply mistaken.

Published, Sun City, statistics, not, correct