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Irrigation - Scheduling

Tuesday 01, Dec 2020

After what has already been a difficult year for many turf facilities around the country, turf managers across all sectors are now gearing up for the warmer months and the many challenges that can present.  Foremost in the minds of turf managers will be the irrigation season and managing their water resources to sustain their turf surfaces to acceptable levels.

The judicious use of water has without question become one of the industry’s greatest modern challenges. Climate change is seeing an increase of the irrigation season across many states, while water availability and quality issues have forced many to undertake major reassessments of where they derive their water from and their irrigation strategies.  Golf clubs and turf facilities continue to invest serious capital into improving irrigation infrastructure and safeguarding their future water sources, with water management planning now a critical step for all to ensure future viability.

As this and the following two articles were being penned, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) announced in September that Australia is entering a period of La Niña.  A La Niña cycle typically results in an increase in the chance of above average rainfall across much of the country during spring and above average summer rainfall across eastern Australia, with the indicators suggesting the remainder of 2020 will be wetter than average.  Interestingly, in the same statement the Bureau highlighted the influence of climate change and that Australia’s climate has warmed by around 1.4°C since 1910, while southern Australia has seen a 10-20 percent reduction in cool-season rainfall (April–October) in recent decades.  Reading between the lines it is a subtle reminder that while we may experience higher spring/summer rainfall this year, we are still in a drying climate.

At the 2018 Australasian Turfgrass Conference in New Zealand, John Neylan presented a paper that reviewed the possible effects of climate change on turf management.  The literature on climate change consistently references the effects on rainfall and therefore water availability.  That is, the changing climate will affect water demand and availability by;


  • Rainfall being more spasmodic;
  • Increased periods of drought;
  • Increasing temperatures; and
  • Increasing evaporation rate.

As part of that presentation he referenced the “State of the Climate 2016” report, a joint publication by the CSIRO and the Bureau. In it, Australia’s climate was summarised as follows;


  • The duration, frequency and intensity of extreme heat events have increased across large parts of Australia.
  • May-July rainfall has reduced by 19 percent since 1970 in southwest Australia.
  • There has been a decline of around 11 per cent since the mid-1990s in the April-October growing season rainfall in the continental southeast.
  • Rainfall has increased across parts of northern Australia since the 1970s.
  • Soil moisture is projected to decrease and future run off will decrease where rainfall is projected to decrease.

The purpose of this report was to provide the science to help inform a range of economic, environmental and social decision-making and local vulnerability assessments by government, industry and communities.  The turf industry certainly fits within these interest areas and highlights the need for localised reviews of the impacts of climate change to be undertaken.  Initiating a site specific water management plan will be a key undertaking by all turf water users to understand how much water is available and how best to use it.

The single biggest ‘take home’ message from the climate change reports is how the turf industry will manage the impacts of a changing climate on water management planning and conservation.  This is particularly the case where there is increasing competition for the available water.

CLICK HERE to read the full article which originally appeared in Volume 22.5 of The Australian Turfgrass Management Journal.

ATM articles are available to all Australian Sports Turf Managers Association members.  To learn more about our memberships, CLICK HERE.