Explosive population growth in southern Nevada has placed increasing demands on available water resources. In 2007, 80% of the state population occurred in southern Nevada, which had a population approaching 2.0 million people (Southern Nevada Health District). This, coupled with a severe drought, has caused water managers to investigate all possible water resources, including waters of lower quality, to alleviate this supply–demand dilemma in southern Nevada.
Las Vegas operates on a “Return Flow Credit” program for reuse water returned to Lake Mead after tertiary treatment. The city of Henderson, the city of Las Vegas, and the Clark County Sanitation District all release a portion of their treated wastewater for irrigation reuse, whereas the remainder is returned to the Colorado River system through the Las Vegas Wash earning “water credits” (Gary Grinnell, LVVWD, personal communication). Utilization of treated sewage effluent (also known as reuse water) for the purpose of landscape irrigation is a more environmentally acceptable alternative to the current discharge of reuse water into the Las Vegas Wash and the Colorado River system. The use of reuse water in the Las Vegas Valley is expanding in growth areas in the north and southwest parts of the valley (satellite treatment plants), reducing the need to expand both the water delivery and sewage discharge systems. However, use of poor-quality water for irrigation purposes requires state-of-the-art, science-based management practices (Carrow and Duncan, 1998; U.S. Golf Association, 1994).
Successful development of a program for reuse water use in southern Nevada has evolved closely with the golf course industries and the general public's acceptance of reuse water. Southern Nevada is home to 53 golf courses, many of them high-end, premiere courses (Gary Grinnell, LVVWD, personal communication). Las Vegas has become one of the United States' fastest growing golf destinations with golf representing a significant contribution to the Las Vegas tourism-driven economy (Borden and Fletcher, 2003).
Use of reuse water does have limitations as a result of its water quality. Superintendents in southern Nevada have expressed concerns over the use of reuse water because of certain “hidden costs” associated with its use. These “hidden costs” include foliar damage to ornamental plants, decline in water quality and aesthetic value of irrigation ponds and water features, “wear and tear” on equipment, the long-term salt buildup in soil profiles, and increased levels of turfgrass stress (Devitt et al., 2004). As such, we initiated a long-term monitoring program to address these concerns, many of which have already been reported on (Devitt et al., 2004, 2005, 2007). In this article, we report on the salt buildup in soil profiles and plant response over a 4.5-year period associated with the irrigation of golf courses with different sources of water. In particular, we monitored golf courses during the period of study that used reuse water (greater than 20 years), hereafter referred to as reuse courses; fresh water, hereafter referred to as fresh courses; and/or transitioned to reuse water, hereafter referred to as transition courses.
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