I'd almost be willing to except Tamarisks as an alternative - Okay, well maybe not
|Desert Willow Golf Resort|
"The 124 golf courses in the Coachella Valley consume roughly 17 percent of all water there, and one quarter of the water pumped out of the region’s at-risk groundwater aquifer, according to the Coachella Valley Water District. Statewide, roughly one percent of water goes to keep golf courses green. Each of the 124 Coachella Valley courses, on average, uses nearly 1 million gallons a day due to the hot and dry climate, 3-4 times more water per day than the average American golf course."Wow, each 124 courses use 1 millions gallons of water a day, which is not surprising given the extreme hot and dry climatic environment they are location. Of course to justify the existence of this industry in the desert, they claim to ONLY use reclaimed water. In fact I will often hear people defend the existence of such businesses who insist, "They only use reclaimed water". Still, that's a lot of water which considering the presence climate shift crisis, one would assume could be put to better uses. Even so, the Sunnyland Estate has made an official Public Relations Statement on the subject.
"The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands has taken significant measures to reduce water usage. In consideration of the conditions that led Governor Brown to make a drought declaration, reducing water consumption is a more important priority than ever."
Commendable, but is it enough, especially since 1 million gallons a day goes to entertain a handful of an elite minority at these places ? Obviously Golf Courses like the Annenberg Estate are easy targets for no other reason than they are so huge and cannot be dismissed or ignored so easily. The term I used to describe the main plant used at such desert Golf Courses is, "Pompous Grass", which are nothing more than non-native exotic grasses from an entirely foreign environment. Short rooted and always thirsty for water and equally hungry for those chemical fertilizers which keep them green. They are indeed a unnatural water resource waster no matter what label you attach to the water's origin. And mind you, these are water resources that were originally taken from far away from somewhere else and transported here. But besides the exotic water loving grasses, there are examples which are in need dire change and not mentioned in any of the articles which deserve equal criticism. I've written about this before. Tamarisk wind and privacy breaks. Take another look at an older photograph of the Annenberg Estate. I chose this one because it beautifully highlights and contrasts this Wealthy Compound with the surrounding desert environment. Today the raw land in the background for the most part is presently occupied. It's surrounded by a dense wall of Tamarisk which are topped every so often for maintenance. In the distance you can also see the windbreak barrier lining the right-of-way for Southern Pacific Railroad & Interstate 10.
|aerial photograph taken by Lawrence Levy in 1983|
Hwy 52 and 67 Interchange, Santee California
You can pick out a fair number of native California plants here, but also notice the almost chocking presence of weeds everywhere in between. Commendable that they are using reclaimed water, also commendable in their choice of some native plants, but it's clearly being wasted by the irresponsible watering technology and techniques which in my opinion are out of date and antiquated. Take a look below at why. Among the many native plants which definitely have aesthetic value, that were planted are California Holly, Laurel Sumac, Matilija Poppy, Coast Live Oak, etc. However on closer inspection they also used other native plants which in my opinion are not necessarily of the ornamental value kind, especially when it comes to the urban Landscape where people are driving slower and concentrated such as at an interchange with numerous on and off ramps and other exists. For example I saw California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), Black sage (Salvia mellifera), White sage (Salvia apiana), California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), Coast brittle-bush (Encelia californica, etc, etc, etc. All kool plants in my opinion and of great wildlife value for local critters, but they dry out and tend to be rangy looking. Now, on down the road in areas of the roadway where they have blasted through the mountain which creates large roadway bank easements, that's great, those plants work perfect there and will adapt and perfectly take care of themselves over time. But the importance of such State or city funded & sponsored roadway beautification projects is that they should also want to encourage the public to do likewise. Many native plants, while they all have value and importance to ecosystem function, are often just not equal in their aesthetic value in appearance, some being rangy, which is folk's impression when you suggest going Native. Many of the plants I spoke of earlier along the Palo Colorado Canyon Road in Central California are if anything beautiful deep evergreen which is what you want for public eye appeal.
What could be wrong with this you wonder ? It wastes water and I don't care if it is only reclaimed water which is considered not good enough for drinking. It's valuable water none the less and they are throwing away a valuable resource that is especially now almost worth it's weight in gold. We're not even talking evapotranspiration here from the vegetation leaves. We're talking surface evaporation off a dry surface which probably doesn't soak in all that well, We're also talking about the majority of the mist of which blows off into the wind rather than on the proposed target. This also facilitates the production of non-mycorrhizal ruderals otherwise known as weeds which compete for water and nutrients and whose sole offensive purpose in life is to mass reproduce themselves by means of seed production which in turn spreads more of themselves across the landscape. That creates tougher maintenance costs in chemicals beside man hours which would be better spent elsewhere. Notice now another important issue below. Non-Native invasive shrubs and trees like that of the Tamarisk or Salt Cedar. Incredibly, like Cottonwood and Willow, they have a cottony seed that only has a short window of viability and opportunity to germinate. Oddly enough I've even seen Cottonwood and Willow volunteer germinate under such wet landscape conditions. That in itself should be an indicate of water overuse, since the presence of such trees represents a riparian ecosystem. But the wet surface conditions of the wasted reclaimed water used have allowed this environment to be favourable to Tamarix establishment. There are literally 100s of small Tamarix seedlings and saplings at this very interchange landscape. Take a look below here.
Salt Cedar (Tamarix)
|image MineSalt Cedar (Tamarix)|
Seriously, who wants this in their landscape ? Now I've tried to have an open mind about Tamarisk and I am certain they play major important ecosystem roles where they originate from in North Africa, Middle east & China, but just not here. The last thing anyone needs is a Tamarix Tree in the landscape which suck far more water than a Native plant.
Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri)
Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina)
|So simple, even a child gets this|
|Image: Hunter Industires|
I've written previously as I've stated about this before in the link above. Picture the above illustration as a typical California native tree, especially an Oak Tree. This underground location in the animated illustration is where they actually want and need water in the summer time. Irrespective of the soil type, this is where most all plant's in dry locations need their moisture during the hotter months of the year and this is where many and most of the giant majestic trees like Oaks and Sycamores obtain their water anyway. This is obvious when you drive past almost any bajada or alluvial floodplain in Southern California. Take a drive by any of the east/west Freeway road corridors from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, and you will find great examples of large mature trees whose sole source of surface water is the rainy season, but whose prime source of hydration comes from deep down under. You won't have to venture off far from the freeways at all since most all of them cross over these giant geological structures throughout their corridor routes. My favourite example is driving north on I-215 from San Bernardino to Cajon Pass via Devore. Notice on your right hand side especially the major lone Sycamores here and there, even though some are stunted, still you have to ask yourself why does such a water loving tree exist on such a dry rocky sandy site where even perennial or even annual spring stream runoff is nonexistent ? It's because something is going on deep under ground. This is where light bulbs should be turning on under your thinking caps right now. Ask yourself, How can I replicate that natural system and save water in my landscape, and in some instances almost eliminating it altogether ? You should also consider that this same basic need of natives are also the same exacting requirements with many similar outsider exotic plants used in landscaping today. The exception to that rule would be tropical plant communities and plants from Boreal climates like where I live now.
|Image: Colleen Sasser, Asuza California|
Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Nature Center
Another beautiful example of majestic large trees in alluvial floodplains is the region of Irwindale California which is a massive floodplain re-routed and manipulated so much by mankind's need for raw building materials, housing and road right-of-way corridors. Still we have remnants of trees of which whose seed was deposited some time in the past during a very heavy rainy event like an El Nino pattern over a few years time. No doubt many more 1000s of such trees here were germinated at the same time, competition stiff and heavy, with only the toughest trees fortunate enough to put down roots deep into the earth and tap into the underground aquifer. Many urban landscape trees like these examples above would be so easy to pattern after with the right encouragement by landscape architects and developers over a period of a few years. Root training would be easy given all plant's ability at sniffing out the direction of water. A couple weeks ago I wrote about a plant's uncanny ability at sensing out water and sending roots in that direction to tap into that life sustaining resource. Now it isn't necessary to understand the science behind just how a plant is able to do this, but simply knowing about it arms one with knowledge of how to proceed when training plant roots for deeper underground root infrastructure which will benefit for life.
So what about Golf Courses in Deserts ?
Mycorrhizal Application Inc did a test plot of three lawns section in Washington DC as the 2010 photo they posted revealed. Those Washington D.C. Capital Lawns where only the front three areas were treated with MycoApply while the rest had not yet been treated! In fact I remember MycoApply highlighting the experience they had on making application on the Whitehouse lawn when Obama became President which was posted on their Facebook page. It proves that commercial applications can be a success, but there also needs to be follow through on maintenance and proper fertilization. Mycorrhizae hate the chemicals conventional landscapers use. Therefore almost a deprogramming and re-education work needs to be done in order for the newer program to remain viable. There is no guarantee that those commercial Golf Courses down in the deserts will ever change. Getting people to think outside the box is tough to do, even if Nature has been doing things a certain way successfully for countless 1000s of years. I'm still no fan of Pompous Grass resorts, but that's just me. If everyone else has to change, then so should they, irrespective of how much money and power they may think they have. Reclaimed Water is as equally valuable as the clean fresh water which comes out of the tap. The present Climate Change reality has finally forced a redefinition that term's true meaning.
Further Turf Resources for everyone
|Image: Mycorrhizal Applications Inc|
One month since sowing, the difference between inoculating one species Glomus intraradices (left) and a 7 endomycorrhizal species inoculation (right) is quite striking. The only difference between the soil/treatments was the biodiversity of the mycorrhizal inoculum.