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Golfers Find Oasis from Drought at Sierra Sage














As drought conditions continue to put more restrictions on water use, golfers are seeing one oasis of green at Washoe County’s Sierra Sage Golf Course in Stead, which is watered with treated water from the City of Reno’s Stead Water Reclamation Facility since 2000.

Sierra Sage is the treatment plant’s largest customer, pumping the sand-filtered, biologically-treated and disinfected water into the course’s lakes and ponds for on-course application.

Treated water from the plant is also used to irrigate the North Valley’s Regional Park sports fields, Mayor’s Park in Stead and dust control trucks operating at local construction sites, according to Robert Zoncki, plant operator for the City of Reno.

“While this isn’t a potable water product, we abide by Nevada Department of Environmental Protection standards for public safety,” Zoncki said. “It costs about 30 percent less than potable irrigation water and its keeping 350 to 500 acre feet of surface or ground water in our drinking water systems each year.”

A typical household uses about half an acre-foot of water annually, which pales in comparison to that of the typical golf course. Water recycling is just one of the tricks golf course operators may use to keep their course open for play, according to Mike Mazzaferri, president of Cal-Mazz Golf, which operates Sierra Sage in Washoe County.

“If everyone else is cutting back their water use and their lawns are going brown, golf courses can’t have a bright green course, unless the water is recycled,” Mazzaferri said. “Sierra Sage and Wildcreek are two public courses that have the recycled water program in place. Arrowcreek and Wolf Run are the two privately owned courses in the Reno-Sparks area that take advantage of reclaimed water. It just makes sense, and the industry will be using it at more courses.”

Sierra Sage employs many other water savings tricks, Mazzaferri said. The course operators have reduced turf areas, employed computer-aided sprinkler systems and planted new drought tolerant trees.

“Our philosophy is that we’d like to see a dry spot on our course before we see a wet spot and we always push the ‘less water’ envelope,” Mazzaferri said. “What people need to understand is that turf will do better long term being a little hungry for water than giving it too much.”

“The recycled water does pose some minor chemistry issues,” he added. “But we are able to adjust PH levels and with proper application and turf management we can actually get a greener product than if we used potable water.”

The Stead Plant, which has a capacity of about 2 million gallons, treats about 1.4 million gallons of sewage each day. “We see a lot of potential for water reuse not only for irrigation use but also for industrial use,” Zoncki said. “Its just another option to keep from tapping more into our surface and ground water supplies.”

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