The Club at Las Campanas
Water and Wildlife Conservation
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Water Conservation

Sustainable Water for the Espanola Basin

New Mexico is located in the high desert Southwest, and currently is experiencing a third consecutive year of the worst drought recorded in the State's history. During a drought, the importance of sustainable water supply becomes paramount. In order to improve the understanding of sustainable water in our area of Northern New Mexico, Charlie Nylander recently scripted, narrated and produced an educational video film that describes the major elements of sustainable water in the Espanola Basin. The film was funded by Los Alamos County on behalf of the Espanola Basin Regional Issues Forum (EBRIF), ad ad hoc forum of county, city, and tribal governments located within the hydrologic basin described as the Espanola Basin. The film has been distributed for use by all fourteen of the participating governments that are members of EBRIF, a government-to-government forum that Mr. Nylander has provided consulting services for over the past nine years.

The film comprehensively describes the three major elements of sustainable water as:  wet water (location of the water resource); water rights (legal administration of water use); and water infrastructure (man-made and natural systems that function to provide water production, storage, conveyance, treatment, and use). In addition, numerous water management topics are discussed, including water conservation which is illustrated with The Club at Las Campanas’ 2010 - 2012 golf course water conservation initiatives. Click here to view the video.

Golf Course Overview

The Club at Las Campanas golf facility includes: two 18 hole golf courses, 60 acres per course (the average desert 18 hole golf course is 90 acres), a 10 acre Practice Park and seven ponds covering 15 acres. The irrigation system is a computer controlled, state of the art system with the capability to apply irrigation based on measured weather data and has automatic shut-off capability controlled by multiple rain gauges. The seven ponds on the course provide storage for the water purchased from Santa Fe County and the water from the Rio Grande River.

Water resources can be managed on golf courses to improve water sustainability by: carefully selecting an appropriate turf grass, reducing turf area, applying the optimum sprinkler technology, and properly managing watering practices.

Turf Reduction

The turf reduction project returned approximately 40 acres of previously irrigated turf to native desert. Turf reduction projects have become more prevalent in the past few years all across the desert Southwest. The Club at Las Campanas' turf reduction project was monitored by Chet Williams of Nickalaus Design and Bob Bryant of Bryant, Taylor and Gordon Golf, irrigation experts.

Turf Reduction performed after receiving technical consulting from Nicklaus Golf:

80 acres of fairways reduced to 60 acres
172 acres of total irrigated turf reduced to 130 acres for 36 holes of golf
Thousands of sprinkler heads eliminated

When asked about the water conservation efforts at Las Campanas Bob Bryant remarked, “We have been involved with Las Campanas since the last course, the Sunset Course, was built. We actually designed the irrigation system for the Sunset Course. Over the past several years, we have been involved with Tom Egelhoff, Director of Agronomy, and several Club members working on a number of projects to improve the efficiency of the older Sunrise Course irrigation system and on turf reduction projects on both courses; all in an effort to reduce water use. During this time, Las Campanas' Agronomy team has identified inefficiencies in the irrigation systems and made improvements to increase efficiency and uniformity of water application. They have implemented programs to identify total water usage by area for each golf course, prioritizing water use based on key golf course features, and worked to reduce overall water usage. Of all of our clients, Las Campanas has been the most proactive of all in working to conserve and reduce water use”.

Example of elimination of irrigated rough

Sod in rough was replaced with non-irrigated native vegetation

Improved Watering Practices

The purpose of the Sprinkler Replacement Project was to improve technology and efficiency of the sprinkers on the golf courses and to improve watering practices. The Agronomy team replaced over 900 impact sprinkers with new gear driven sprinklers and installed soil moisture, temperature, and salinity sensors with signal inputs to operations computer. In addition, 50 satellite control stations were replaced and decreased from double/triple head controls to single head controls and 3 rain buckets were integrated to the controller to shut irrigation down during precipitation events. Three on-site weather stations provide direct data inputs for temperature, wind velocity, solar radiation, and rainfall into the operations computer.

New gear driven sprinker head technology

On-site Weather Station

Pond #18 and #4 Repair

The pond repair on number 18 and 4 ponds was necessary to seal the pond banks that had been compromised due to years of bank erosion. The Agronomy team of The Club at Las Campanas monitored pond levels over a period of four months to determine where the seepage was occurring. During this time it was determined that the seepage was confined to the pond banks themselves and a professional contractor was engaged to seal the banks. The project took approximately two and a half months to complete and 30 truck loads of cement were used. Once the banks were sealed, the ponds were refilled and monitored for seepage and it was determined that the project was successful in emlinating any leaks.


Bank stabilization work on Sunrise Hole 18

Prepping bank for shot-crete

Placement of metal reinforcement in shot-crete

Ponds prepped for shot-crete

To learn more about the water conservation efforts, the nesting and migratory birds or the Audubon Sanctuary Program contact Tom Egelhoff at

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