Jeff Lessig, General Manager of the Fountain Hills, Ariz., club, is advocating a voluntary community-wide program to convince residents to switch from using salt to potassium in their home water softeners. Six area golf courses use the treated, reclaimed wastewater, and Lessig hopes to minimize sodium levels before it enters the stream rather than taking on the costs of desalination or buying potable water.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club General Manager Jeff Lessig commented at a recent meeting of the Fountain Hills/Fort McDowell Visitors Bureau that the effluent water used on the course contains high sodium levels that are damaging local golf courses, the Fountain Hills (Ariz.) Times reported.
Effluent, or reclaimed wastewater, is used to irrigate grass at SunRidge Canyon Golf Club, Eagle Mountain Golf Club and FireRock Country Club, as well as Fountain Park, Golden Eagle Park and Desert Vista Park, the Times reported.
Even though the reclaimed wastewater is treated and delivered by the Sanitary District, the main “culprit” in causing high sodium levels is residential water softeners that use salt. Lessig wants to launch a public awareness campaign to convince residents to switch from using salt to potassium in their home water softeners, the Times reported.
Effluent water is dangerously high in sodium chloride, said Lessig. Eighty parts per million is considered to be a healthy standard. Recent laboratory tests measured 260 parts per million, 325% higher than the healthy standard, he said.
“We don’t have healthy golf courses right now” because of the salt content in the water, said Lessig.
Profitability of the golf courses affects the town because of the significant revenue they generate through property taxes, sales tax, tourism and employment, said Lessig.
“Golf courses also have an enormously positive impact on real estate values and the entire brand and image of the community,” Lessig said. “Collectively, the golf industry is one of, if not the largest, economic engines in the Town of Fountain Hills.”
Applying potable water is financially prohibitive, said Lessig. SunRidge Canyon pays between $300,000 and $400,000 for reclaimed water. He estimated the expense to use potable water would be three times greater, the Times reported.
“We can’t afford $1 million. We would go out of business. If we can’t grow a reasonable strand of grass, we’ll lose market share,” said Lessig. “Indirectly, it affects everybody in this town.”
Officials with the Sanitary District use a similar argument that they cannot handle the expensive cost of desalination, the Times reported.
“So, the solution is to keep the salt out of the system initially,” said Lessig.
He asked the advisory committee to support a voluntary community-wide program to remove salt from the effluent water for “the health of the community and the good of the environment.”
Homeowners and businesses using water softeners have the choice of converting from a sodium to potassium water softening agent. Potassium chloride does not pose negative consequences for turfgrass or human consumption, Lessig said.
Although readily available, Lessig said a 40-pound bag of potassium chloride costs about $20 compared to a similar size bag of sodium chloride selling for $5, the Times reported.
“Price is an issue, but I would like to think you could support a community effort to convince people to voluntarily use potassium chloride in their water softeners,” Lessig said.
The Rio Verde Community Association adopted a voluntary campaign to “Boot the Salt” a few years ago. Residents signed an honor roll to use potassium pellets instead of salt for their water-softener systems, the Times reported.
Mayor Linda Kavanagh said Scottsdale operates a reverse osmosis system that removes the salt, the Times reported.
“I think the Sanitary District needs to upgrade their technology,” she said. “If there is something the town needs, you can’t sit back and say that’s too expensive. You have to do it.”
Kavanagh suggested that Lessig contact the town’s Greening Committee to adopt a public awareness campaign for potassium chloride pellets, the Times reported.