Bowling greens are subject to very intensive use, and Blackburn Bowls Club in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is no exception, with the Club estimating that there is over 62,000 hours of competitive, practice, and social play annually.
The greens at Blackburn Bowls Club were previously established using “traditional” Bent Grass turf on a well-drained base using highly porous soil. While Bent Grass is commonly used on bowling and golf greens, it is essentially a delicate cool-season and non-drought hardy species.
Prior to the Smart Water Fund project, Blackburn Bowls Club’s typical annual water use was about 1.2 million litres, but despite the large quantities of water being used to irrigate the greens, ongoing dry conditions and water restrictions were still threatening to limit the playing season and ultimately the survival of the club.
With the drought unrelenting and the likelihood of ongoing water restrictions, there was a clear need for Blackburn Bowls Club to address its water use if the club wanted to survive.
In order to determine which direction to follow, Blackburn Bowls Club undertook an audit of its annual water use including turf irrigation, gardens and use in the club-house.
A water plan for the club was then developed, consisting of seven key features:
- Subsurface drip irrigation – which has the potential to increase irrigation efficiency by approximately 40 per cent compared to overhead watering;
- A “closed” or Californian irrigation system – based on an innovative US Green Keepers Association design;
- Conversion of greens to warm season turf – Tiffdwarf Couch was selected based on its ability to achieve water savings of 40-60 per cent compared to species such as Bent Grass;
- Capturing water onsite – the project features a central collection pit where all roof (700m2), subsurface drainage and recycled water from the “Californian” system can be harvested and pumped for holding in storage;
- Significant water storage – 140,000 litres in total;
- Diverting stormwater from a nearby Blackburn Creek – which will also help to improve the health of the creek; and
- Water treatment systems – including filtration and anti-bacterial treatment.
Blackburn Bowls Club’s fully integrated water conservation system will eliminate the need for potable water for all non-drinking water applications and is expected to save the club 1.2 million litres of water a year.
The project will also allow the club to meet its busy annual fixture of competition, tournament, and social bowls.
“This Smart Water Fund project will allow us to achieve best practice water management while maintaining high performance and extended use of turf playing surfaces,” says Blackburn Bowls Club Chairman, John Roach.
“We will be sharing the results with the bowls community, and hope the project will serve as the benchmark for other clubs to emulate so our sport can continue to thrive.”