Most of the golf courses on the coast are irrigated with recycled water. Josele
Golf courses boast sustainability measures amid drought crisis as 80% are irrigated with recycled water

Golf courses boast sustainability measures amid drought crisis as 80% are irrigated with recycled water

The sector, which generates 2.2 billion euros a year in Andalucía, was a pioneer on the Costa del Sol in the use of wastewater from sewage treatment plants

Francisco Jiménez


Wednesday, 3 May 2023, 23:06


Andalusian golf courses are boasting about their sustainability measures Spain grapples with a drought crisis.

Water usage and distribution is a hot topic as another extreme summer looms. Catalonia this week tightened water restrictions, meaning 495 municipalities needed to abide by strict limits. While across Andalucía reservoirs are also at dangerously low levels due to a lack of rainfall.

In a bid to avoid being demonised as a large consumer of water the Royal Andalucian Golf Federation assured that golf courses were efficiently managing their water usage, as well as contributing more than 2.2billion euros to the Andalucian economy and the creation of 52,000 jobs.

Royal Andalucian Golf Federation president Pablo Mansilla said that facilities were irrigated with wastewater stored at water treatment plants and that golf courses used a type of grass which required a minimum amount of watering.

Currently, 80% of the golf courses in the province of Malaga and throughout Andalucía used recycled water, he added.

The Costa del Sol was a pioneer more than three decades ago, when in 1989 the Monte Mayor golf course in Benahavís became the first in the region to use recycled water from the Guadalmansa treatment plant in Estepona.

After the development of a third filter which provided higher quality water to all the plants along the western coast, there are 42 sports facilities that are now using recycled water.

"At present we can say that 80 per cent of this irrigation is already carried out with recycled water. Golf, therefore, does not compete for the use of potable or conventional water. What it does is convert water that has already been used by the population into a powerful generator of wealth and employment," Mansilla said.

Nine out of every ten euros spent by golf tourists went to other businesses and services, he added. Compared to the annual turnover of 220 million euros for the hundred or so golf courses in Andalucía, the direct income from the activity and tourism amounted to 2.2 billion euros.

"Compared to the 1.1 million hectares of irrigated agricultural land in Andalucía, golf only irrigates 3,500 hectares, 80% of which use recycled water," Mansilla said.

"With the allocations included in the Andalusian Hydrological Plans, which have been published at the beginning of 2023, the income per cubic metre of irrigation used in golf exceeds the income of any other crop and is therefore the most profitable crop of all."

Water demand, by sector

A study by the Association of Businessmen of the South (Cesur) showed that of the 476 Hm3 that the province of Malaga used per year, only 22.1 (4.6%) went towards tourism and leisure (golf, theme parks etc) compared to the 241 Hm3 that was used up by the agricultural sector, and the 206 consumed in urban situations. The rest was divided between industrial (3.2) and livestock (2.3) uses.

In this context, the golf courses on the Costa del Sol used barely 10% (6 Hm3 per year) of the recycled water that the treatment plants managed by Acosol were capable of producing.

"The surplus, which is now returned to the sea, could be used for other purposes," Mansilla said. He also called for the "necessary" public investment in piping from the treatment plants to all the golf courses, so even more could use recycled water.

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