Water Conservation Means Good Economics for Golf Course Operations

Published in an upcoming article in GCM Magazine titled Waterless Facilities and on www.eifg.org under case studies

By T.J. Winzeler GCS
Sanctuary at Westworld Golf Course
Scottsdale, Arizona

Situated at the base of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona; the Sanctuary at Westworld Golf Course is a public golf facility and is a Certified Silver Audubon Signature Sanctuary through the Audubon International program. SunCor Golf Inc. in conjunction with the City of Scottsdale and Bureau of Land Management utilized a stormwater retention area and designed the Sanctuary to be just that, an “oasis in the desert”. What was once a bulldozed and disturbed area is now a very beneficial greenspace that not only provides turfgrass and recreational opportunities, but is home to native plants and wildlife as well. The golf course’s turfgrass and native vegetation provide a natural filter system for stormwater and irrigation water removing pollutants as it replenishes the ground water resource.

In conjunction with the beneficial change to the landscape, the Sanctuary implemented a Natural Resources Management Plan (NRMP) in compliance with Audubon International’s requirements for certification. That plan incorporates: 

  • Wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement
  • Waste reduction and management
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Water quality management and monitoring
  • Integrated pest management

The NRMP offered guidance not only during planning, construction, and development, but continues to guide the golf course operations. One specific area of interest is the use of waterless toilets at the Sanctuary.

During initial construction, circumstances dictated that we install temporary restrooms. These proved to be functional, but were not comparable to the other amenities offered at the facility. In July 2004, the Sanctuary contacted several restroom manufactures to design two permanent facilities. The restrooms were designed using criteria established and agreed upon by all aforementioned parties. This system also provides complies with the Multiple Use – Sustained Yield Act (MUSY) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Several alternatives were evaluated. The alternatives included: vault toilets, vault toilets with vault evaporators (Biological Mediation System or BMS), composting toilets (Clivus Multrum), and evaporation/dehydration toilets (Bio-Sun Systems). Ultimately, the choice was made to install the BMS system. This system proved to be the most effective at waste reduction, with the least amount of maintenance. After several revisions, the final plans were approved by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in the fall of 2004. See Attachment A: Floor Plan.

Restroom Design Parameters

A) Aesthetics
A1) How does it fit into landscape?
A2) What color?
A3) Is it consistent with clubhouse?

B) Environmental Impact
B1) Groundwater impact?
B2) Will it impede wildlife corridors?

C) Utility challenges
C1) No potable water.
C2) No electricity.

D) Regulatory concerns
D1) ADA compliance.
D2) MUSY compliance

The system is a simple, but well engineered unit to mimic our clubhouse and provide a more pleasant user experience. The unit we installed was the R3-167VE solar powered vault evaporator (Attachment A). Biological Mediation Systems’ patented vault evaporator is an innovative waste disposal alternative that avoids the maintenance requirements of many toilets and composting toilets. The BMS system uses mechanical ventilation to effectively control odors and substantially reduce waste volume which thereby reduces the frequency of pumping the unit’s waste out.

Development for the Sanctuary site included designing and building an accessible toilet to handle less than 3,000 gallons per day. In addition, it met project goals by allowing the placement of the restroom building in a manner that did not require a full basement and therefore could be sited more conveniently for golfers and trail user access.

The construction process began with excavation for the vault that was completed by golf course personnel using the plans provided by BMS. Once the site was prepared; placement and maintenance of the restrooms was extremely easy. The buildings and vault were delivered pre-assembled on flat-bed semi-trailers. A local crane operator was contracted to lift the buildings/vault into place. Special high tensile tape was used to secure the building to the vault. No other
construction was necessary! The entire process took less than four hours.

Project funding came from an established improvement account managed by the City of Scottsdale. The final cost of construction was approximately $74,000. Maintenance of the system has proven to be minimal... The manufacturer recommends that the vault be pumped out several times per year. We have been able to avoid this completely. Regular monthly additions of a biological product CBX completely eliminatedthe need to pump. We simply add a small amount of water while cleaning. The bacteria completely eliminate any waste and or odor. The byproduct from this process is water which simply evaporates into the atmosphere.

The BMS system has proven to be a beneficial addition to the property. The system provides an aesthetically pleasing, sanitary, and environmentally friendly solution to our problem. We have been able to save several hundred dollars in pumping costs over the last two years. Not to mention the positive impact of not wasting 1.6 gallons of water every time someone uses the restroom. On an average golf course that sees approximately 50,000 rounds per year, that is a savings of over 80,000 gallons of water per year! In my opinion, the cost savings alone associated with a waterless system made this a viable solution to our problem.