Drip irrigation saving water, cash at Shadow Creek

MGM Resorts International is getting a return on its investment into a drip irrigation system being installed at its Shadow Creek Golf Course. The return is not just economic.

“I think when we’re all done, we’ll be at a 30 percent water savings,” said Tim Cloninger, superintendent of Shadow Creek.

There were, of course, economic benefits to the system going in. No dollar figures were disclosed, but MGM said it expects to save $3 for every dollar invested in the program.

MGM’s goals in installing the system were to increase efficiency in watering the courses’ 6,500 pine trees and improve the overall health of the trees.

Much of the work began back in January of 2015, and Cloninger is expecting to wrap things up around June. The watering improvements have been complted on 12 holes of the 18-hole course.

The course was originally built by Steve Wynn in 1989 and acquired by MGM in 2000 with the purchase of the Mirage Resorts Inc. The brand held several assets under its name including the Mirage, Bellagio and Treasure Island, along with Shadow Creek.

The system’s efficiency starts with changing irrigation methods.

The course was being watered by a sprinkler system that wasn’t as efficient as the new drip irrigation lines being used in concert with the sprinklers. The grass and the trees have two types of needs when it comes to watering, so the new drip lines are buried underground to fulfill the trees needs and the grass can still be sprayed with its above-ground sprinkler system to fulfill its needs.

“That’s really where the biggest savings is,” Cloninger said.

He went on to describe the situation further in an analogy where a lot of trees are in the same area as a lot of grass—he used Bermuda grass, which has a low water requirement.

“If you have trees mixed in there too, the water requirement for the trees is going to be different than the drought tolerant turf grass,” Cloninger explained. “If you don’t have the flexibility to water each plant independently, then you have to water for the tree that requires more water than the low water use turf.”

“These areas now, we’ve been able to really turn down those sprinklers, and the water savings has come, and we’re just a lot more efficient and really precise on the crop,” Cloninger said. “We’re giving the right amount of water to each crop, plant — whatever plant is in each area.”

This is not MGM’s first water reduction project.

It’s done several initiatives in the past and has saved approximately 1.2 billion gallons of water since 2008. That number has an equivalency of 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

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