As it's nickname implies, Minnesota has a substantial amount of groundwater. That's all the more reason for the state's golf course superintendents association to play a leadership role in helping conserve it - and make sure the industry has a stable source well into the future, says Jack MacKenzie, CGCS, executive director of the Minnesota GCSA.
"Just because Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, that doesn't mean we don't have to be responsible for our water," MacKenzie said.
To that end, the association recently put the finishing touches on four publications that address best management practices for golf courses in Minnesota.
"In Minnesota, there are two kinds of water users: Either you have a permit, or your permit is suspended. Golf is a non-essential water user in Minnesota, so we're the first apple to be picked when it's time to reduce water use," MacKenzie said. "We're trying to make it so that golf has a modicum of protection. We're happy to dial back when it's time cut back. Just don't pull the plug on us. When you do that, we lose viability as a business."
In the works since 2012, the guides include a compilation of the greatest hits of work already completed by superintendent chapters in other states, including Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Rhode Island.
Two events helped elevate the project's status at the state agency level - the Minnesota GCSA's mercury-mitigation program and a state court ruling that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources restrict groundwater pumping from the environmentally sensitive White Bear Lake.
Mercury mitigation has resonated with the state department of agriculture, which regulates water quality in Minnesota, since Dan Stoddard took over as section manager for the department's pesticide and fertilizer management division.
"We'd been trying to push this for years. We were asking what we needed to do get this off the ground," MacKenzie said.
"The interim director, who I knew in college, asked what we can do to partner together. Because of the sudden impact of mercury, how do we work with golf courses so we can develop mitigation procedures for these properties? It opened the door for what has become a blooming relationship."
The same can be said for the state GCSA's newfound relationship with the DNR, since the latter has fallen under direction from the courts to reexamine how it grants groundwater use permits.
The association's "Best Management Practices Water-Use Efficiency/Conservation Plan For Minnesota Golf Courses" actually has presented the state DNR with a template it is using moving forward. Input from golf was welcomed and necessary since, according to MacKenzie, about 80 percent of the state's 500 or so golf courses use groundwater, including several in the White Bear Lake vicinity.
"We're all working together," MacKenzie said. "This will the template of water appropriations changes throughout the state.
"We're here to support the DNR, and we want them to know we are here to help. We are here to help them conserve water. Here is our environmental state, now just don't pull the plug on us."