Here’s How Much Water Golf Courses, Ski Resorts, and Pools Are Using in California

The truth about California’s dwindling water supply.


California residents have gotten used to gentle coaxing to save water: ads urging residents to “Make It a Quickie” when showering and restaurants withholding water unless it’s ordered, for example.

But it wasn’t enough: This spring, Gov. Jerry Brown mandated water use reduction for the first time in California’s history. Starting in June, cities and towns were required to cut water use by 25 percent. Although no one has estimated the specifics of the state’s water use since 2003, officials predict that the cuts will save nearly 500 billion gallons of H2O over nine months—enough for all Los Angeles homes and businesses for about two years.

So far, the reductions have been a success: Officials recently announced that the state beat its goal in June, reducing municipal water use by 27 percent. It’s up to local agencies to figure out how best to reach the goal—most have targeted regulations on outdoor use, since half of the water consumed by California homes goes to lawns and gardens. Los Angeles “water cops” ticket those who water their lawns on the wrong day; the city is also issuing rebates for those who replace their lawns with drought-tolerant plants. Many agencies are simply fining residents who exceed monthly limits.

These changes are making a dent, but there’s no denying that home water use is a drop in the bucket compared to California’s thirsty outdoor businesses. Farms, of course, are the state’s biggest water user, consuming 80 percent of the state’s developed water. They were excluded from the 25 percent water reduction rule, but they’ve suffered region-specific cuts of their own, and, in some cases, are fighting back.

Of the thirsty nonagricultural businesses, golf takes the lead: The average Palm Springs golf course uses the same amount of water in one day that a family of four does in five years. The 123 golf courses in the Palm Springs area use nearly a quarter of the region’s groundwater.

The good news: Even the golf industry is coming around; more and more courses are using recycled water, leaving zones off the fairway unwatered, and taking advantage of drought tolerant landscape rebates.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate