Thirst quencher

Thirst quencher

California’s Pasatiempo Golf Club and its irrigation partners get creative to secure the water the facility needs to survive for the next 30 years.

May 8, 2018
John Torsiello
While Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. has never thirsted for recognition, it was thirsting for water. The club’s acclaimed course, opened in 1929 and designed by famed architect Alister MacKenzie, was facing a dire situation when drought and resulting water-use restrictions were put in place several years ago.

The course has always utilized potable city water for irrigation, but over time water-use restrictions became tighter and many California courses were only capable of securing 25 percent of the water they required. Pasatiempo management had one choice; find an alternative, dependable water source.
It was vital to find a reliable water source, says D. Scott Hoyt, the club’s general manager. “It started out as a security play (acquiring the recycled water) and turned into a financial play, as well,” he says. “We got cut 50 percent by our sole supplier (the City of Santa Cruz) in the summer of 2014. It was a disaster for us. It cost us $1 million in revenue over the next two years and there are people out there who still think we are in a drought or that the golf course never recovered.”

The club could only irrigate tees and greens that summer and fall and the rest of the course died, Hoyt says. However, it quickly recovered when the winter rains hit. 

“By May of 2015, the course was back to 100 percent, but our reputation took a big hit,” Hoyt says. “We proved firm, fast and brown was not what appealed to a golfer. Due to the high cost of potable water, the choices were to find another water source or let the cost of water put the course out of business.”

The decision was made to proceed with a plan to find that other water source. Since the project was going to be 100 percent self-funded by the club’s shareholders, they had to vote to spend $9 million dollars on the plan, which will be paid off by selling new shares of stock and borrowing money. The proposal was approved by 94 percent of the shareholders. The club anticipates paying off the loan in 13 years out of operational profits and annual capital fees.

Pasatiempo’s management had an ace up its sleeve, though. In the 1970s, the engineer designing the Scott Valley treatment plant discharge system to the Pacific Ocean had the vision to stub a pipe onto Pasatiempo’s property. 

“The main discharge line from the City of Scotts Valley is under a street approximately 300 yards from our property,” Hoyt says. “I have been at Pasatiempo for 6 ½ years and have worked (along with superintendent Justin Mandon) on securing the recycled water nearly every day during that time.”

Hoyt and Mandon put their heads together and hired a local contractor, Bothat had come highly recommended, and a local design team, SWA Architects, to oversee layout of the facility and manage engineering and construction. Hoyt credits relationships as the key to the projects overall success. For example, SWA Architects were familiar with Santa Cruz and the city’s planning department. Mandon had a relationship with pump station provider Watertronics that proved valuable. "We were extremely lucky that the Pasatiempo Board of Directors trusted Justin and I to make day-to-day decisions,” Hoyt says. “It would have been a nightmare and slowed the project to a standstill if we needed permission every time a decision had to be made.”

Again, serendipity came into play. 

“We were lucky that we had space on our property exactly where the stubbed pipe for the recycled water came in,” Hoyt says. The major aspects of the project were designing an entire system which included filtration building, pump station, a restroom, material storage bins and a tank. “We are a world-famous golf course and we needed this plant to fit in,” he adds. “We succeeded, when you play our 13th hole (the plant is located directly behind it), the plant looks like it has been there forever.” 

Watertronics was first hired to design the pump station and the blending software, along with controls for the individual water sources that would be used, says Willie Slingerland, the company’s regional sales manager/California, Hawaii, Mexico, Central and South America. “As the project progressed and changed we were also part of the engineering team,” he says. 

Watertronics designed filter feed pumps and controls, well controls and piping, potable water feed controls. “The final part was developing the master control that would interface with every component of the system then monitor, control and report on all the systems,” Slingerland says. 
At first it was a very simple pump system with a complicated blending software to allow the superintendent the ability to create his own water recipe as it was pumped to the irrigation system, Slingerland says. “Our original controls were meant to take three sources of water -- potable, effluent and well water – and store them in two tanks – potable in one tank and well and effluent in a second tank,” he adds. “We would give the superintendent the capability of blending the water sources together as they are pumped to the irrigation system.”

As the project progressed and became more complicated, WaterWorks engineers were brought in to deal with piping, filtration, and monitoring that would be required to meet California laws for utilizing effluent water on a golf course. WaterWorks engineers and Watertronics worked closely on the engineering aspects of handling the three water sources.

“The project was fairly straightforward in the beginning because our focus was on managing the three water sources, blending those sources and pumping the water to the irrigation system,” Slingerland says, “However, as we went through the stages of design and studying California's laws on effluent water usage we discovered the water available from Scotts Valley was not fully treated to a level which Pasatiempo could use for irrigation.” 
Special filtration was required along with chlorine injection, chlorine monitoring, TDS (total dissolved solids) monitoring, as well as monitoring of water’s turbidity. And once the filtration system and filtration building were designed, the team was thrown a new curveball. Scotts Valley could not supply the water to the filtration system at a pressure high enough for the filters to function. 

WaterWorks engineers designed a lift station to accept the free flow of water from a diversion weir – a barrier across the horizontal width of a river that alters the flow characteristics of the water and usually results in a change in the height of the river level -- installed on the Scotts Valley line. Watertronics designed and manufactured the controls that read the water level at the lift station and operate the pumps on variable frequency drives to maintain a constant level of incoming water at the lift station. It then sends effluent water to the filtration system at a pressure that allows the filters to operate and perform their function in a final treatment process of the effluent water.
At this point the team had all the various components designed and engineered and how they would all function together as a single operation. The last piece missing was an integrated master control panel that would communicate, monitor and control the various functions, such as monitoring the water level in a 500,000-gallon storage tank and based on what water blend is required fill the tank with a blend of effluent, potable and well water.

For example, if well water is required as part of the blend, then a signal is sent via radio to start the well pump. Hours of operation along with quantity of water pumped is recorded. Water travels through a pipeline to the storage tank and enters through an air gap piping system. If potable water is required, a signal is sent to the potable control valve, which opens, and the amount of water is monitored and recorded. The water again travels through a pipeline to the storage tank and enters through an air gap piping system. If effluent water is required and water is coming from Scotts Valley and is available in the lift station, the pumps start and send that water to the filtration building.

Water first travels through a pre-filter before it goes into one of two 5-micron filters. Once the water is filtered the chlorine level in the water is checked and chlorine is injected to required state law. After filtration, the water is checked for turbidity, which must be below levels set by the state. Once the water travels through this treatment process, which is constantly monitored and controlled by the master control panel, the water can be put into the tank for storage.

The pump station takes the water from the tank and sends it to the irrigation system as called for by the central irrigation control. “The last item is another monitor which checks the chlorine level and contact time,” Slingerland says. “If either of these are not in compliance, the master control panel sends a signal to the pump station to turn off until either the chlorine levels are met, or the chlorine contact time is met.”

All functions are monitored by a remote monitoring and control system developed by Watertronics. The pump station, potable water control, water well and the filter feed can be viewed and monitored via “Watervision Cloud.” From an APP, a superintendent or irrigation technician can view, monitor and control these parts of the system. The system will also send text alerts if any part of the system gets out of specified parameters. The master control panel is remotely viewed through WaterVision PC. The system allows the course to provide specific daily, weekly and monthly reports on the following; gallons per minute of water used from each of the sources, effluent, potable and well, chlorine used, chlorine levels incoming and outgoing, chlorine contact time, and turbidity.

The course did not have to be closed during the project, as construction only impacted one tee box that was rebuilt at the end of construction. But the project had almost as many twists and turns as a mystery novel. “There were many ups and downs, including choosing (to pursue the project during) the winter when Santa Cruz had 70 inches of rain,” Hoyt says. “We had many negotiations with the State of California, the City of Santa Cruz, the County of Santa Cruz and homeowners. Also, the City of Scotts Valley, the city that we signed a 30-year agreement with to purchase recycled water, unilaterally decided they were not going to adhere to the contract. So, we had to redesign our system mid-stream.”

However, the effort and money were well spent, Hoyt says. “The final result is that we have secured irrigation water for the next 30 years at essentially a fixed price,” he says. “We also dug a well that will be part of our irrigation portfolio and we are still hooked up to our original source (the city of Santa Cruz), so we have three sources of irrigation water.”

Hoyt predicted that cub’s irrigation bill in the first year of operation will drop from $800,000 to $300,000. “The $300,000 we anticipate to spend will remain virtually the same over the next 30 years, although there will be increases in electricity costs and depending upon our potable water usage (City of Santa Cruz water). We forecasted that if we had not installed this system, our irrigation water cost would be close to $1.3 million in five years. We could very well have been bankrupt if we had not installed this system.”

And a great course might have been lost forever. 

John Torsiello is a Torrington, Conn.-based writer and frequent GCI contributor.