Vegas golf club removes turf

17th July 2008

Vegas golf club removes turf

It's not often you see the general manager of a golf course hugging the man who's digging up the grass on his fairways and replacing it with something similar to desert gravel.

That though is exactly what Stephen Goldstein, who's in charge of the Black Mountain Golf and Country Club outside Las Vegas did, after bringing his golf cart to an abrupt stop on the way back to the club house.

Mr Goldstein is having 55 acres (22 hectares) of the grass on his course removed, out of a total of 168 acres

It's costing between $2m and $3m (£1m - £1.5m) to have done. It should save him more than $50,000 (£25,000) a year.

"The main reason was financial", says Mr Goldstein. "We knew that as time went on that water costs were going to increase."

"There was going to be a time when we would either be mandated to reduce our water consumption or obviously from a financial condition it would be difficult for us to water all the areas."

Water in Las Vegas is at a premium. One of the most important cities in the United States is slap-bang in the middle of one of the driest areas in the world.

The reason Mr Goldstein can afford to tear up some of his grass is because the Southern Nevada Water Authority is so keen to get people and businesses here to use less water that it's paying them $1.50 for each square foot of grass they remove. So for example there will only be grass on the top of the Tee Boxes, not on the sides, and the rough will now be predominately gravel, with hardy trees and cacti growing on them

So some domestic gardens now no longer have grass and thirsty shrubs in them. They have gravel, desert landscaping, and cacti. Indeed new housing developments are not allowed to put in gardens.

This part of the US has suffered almost a decade of drought. Las Vegas is at the sharp end, but all the states in the region are affected.

There's plenty of disagreement about what's causing the drought. Many here say it's just a dry spell, that the rains will return.

But the General Manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Patricia Mulroy, says there's no doubt in her mind that man-made climate change is to blame.

"We're going to have to change our whole approach to water management in this part of the United States", she says.

By: Matthew Price - BBC