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In historic drought, Spokane golf courses conserve water for wildfire fighting

The Latah Creek Golf Course reduced its water footprint by 60%, they said. They have new ways to keep their greens green without excessive hydration.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Latah Creek Golf Course is known for its 176 acres of beautiful green landscaping, but this summer, the course is specifically trying to dry out their property. 

Drought conditions keep worsening across Eastern Washington. The latest update of the drought monitor has more than a quarter of the state under exceptional drought conditions. That is the worst drought the state has seen and that now includes Spokane.

The City of Spokane posted about a new campaign that urges community members to reduce their lawn watering. Local businesses across the area are trying to reduce their water footprint. 

"Man, they've had to really struggle and work hard to really try to keep this place, green as best they can," Latah Creek Golf Course Head Golf Professional PGA Steve Nelke said. 

In Nelke's nearly 40 years in the golf industry, he has never seen a summer quite this hot and dry. Due to this historic the City has created a campaign to reduce lawn watering. 

'Go Gold to Save Blue' asks community members to work to reduce all water usage. In a Facebook post, the City said facilities have reduced their irrigation and have "gone gold" at right-of-ways, fire stations and other city-owned properties.

"We've dialed back the entire course," Latah Creek Golf Course Assistant Superintendent Dustin Redding added. "But the roughs, if they have to go dormant, it's not going to be detrimental to play."

They normally uses 900,000 gallons of water to hydrate the course each day, Redding said. To put that into perspective, the average person in Spokane County used 217 gallons of water per day in the year 2000, according to a report from the County. To help reduce their usage, Nelke said they have cut down watering by 60%, mainly focusing on reducing for the fairways. 

Credit: City of Spokane

"Boy, you have to get the greens and the tees as best you can," he said. "Otherwise, goodbye to your business."

While they are cutting down on water all across the course, they just started using a new tool to help the greens stay green. They have a sunscreen dye they put over the greens and tees. This dye helps keep the greens bright, while also shading the ground to keep the moisture in. They also use growth regulators to enhance the turf quality. 

"The heat kind of knocked us down a little bit, but, you know, we take this seriously," he added. "There's going to be some brown spots, but for the most part, the customers really appreciate it"

The Latah Creek Golf Course also waters their property overnight, which is also recommended for individuals.

Earlier this month, Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency for the state of Washington. This declaration signifies that water supplies for the state will drop to 75 percent of normal. Drought convers some 70% of the state with abnormally dry weather being recorded everywhere statewide.

The dry weather pattern started in late winter. Following a wet January, the state started drying out in February. By April, drought conditions started to spread. The lack of moisture since then means drought has only worsened.

Since February, Spokane has seen just 2.06 inches of rain. That’s more than 5.5 inches behind normal and about 1/3 of the city’s yearly precipitation. That is why Spokane is under exceptional drought for the first time in history as the driest months of the year arrive.