It seems that every year brings us new challenges. This is certainly true when it comes to water usage and restrictions. Whether it’s an outside entity handing down these restrictions or they’re self-imposed, making do with less water is a reality for almost all of us. Going forward, I wouldn’t count on a sudden reversal of this trend. Whatever your restrictions or limitations are now, imagine what they will be five years from now.

We all know this going in to a new season. It’s not going to suddenly creep up behind us and catch us off guard. In that respect, we have knowledge on our side and the ability to plan ahead. We have to figure out how we’re going to irrigate all that turf with less water than we had in the past – or the same amount, if we’re really lucky. And I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that each summer seems to be getting a bit warmer and a bit drier.

This all sounds like a pretty good challenge to me, so we need a plan. We might even need several plans, each one accounting for a drier and more severe summer than the year before. It can’t hurt to be prepared for anything.

Below are five suggestions to incorporate into your planning.

1. Know your limitations.

This includes not only how much water you’re allowed to use, but also how much water your system can actually put out. No two golf courses are the same, and where you get your water, how much you’re allowed to use, and how you actually apply that water to the turf varies from one course to the next. What we do have in common is that we all need to water to some degree. That much is certain. For each of us, knowing our limits is critical to formulating a plan.

2. Prioritize.

Having a plan before a water shortage hits is becoming increasingly important because you know that sacrifices might have to be made. Greens are the obvious top priority, but what’s next? Tees? Fairways? How brown can we let the fairways get? Where do surrounds and approaches rank on the list of priorities? These are actual discussions you should be having with the powers-that-be, and you need to have them before the season starts. Trust me, you don’t want to be having these discussions after the fact!

3. Modernize.

This can’t be done in-season, but it is nonetheless a critical component to reducing water usage. Having modern, efficient pump stations is perhaps the most important factor, but it’s far from the only one. Your computer software, sprinkler heads and nozzle choices are important facets, too.

4. How to cut back.

This is the key to the whole plan. Once you know what your limitations are and have prioritized your water needs, the next key is to figure out how to make it all work. Some of the tools at your disposal include the use of wetting agents, planting native grasses, reducing the amount of turf you irrigate and reducing the amount of water you use on the areas you do irrigate. Watering more efficiently is the name of the game. I’ve noticed that watering by hand is becoming more common each summer. Keeping stresses as low as possible is key because healthy turf can handle summer drought better than stressed turf can.

5. Monitoring and recording.

Being able to go back and look at how much you watered in any prior year is critical to planning for the future. Keep track of how dry each year was and how much water you used in those years – but also take notes on how well the turf did or didn’t do, and why. I find the ability to go back and look at past records is extremely important in watering more efficiently.

Once you have your plan in place, let the water fly – as efficiently as possible, of course.

Read more: The Worthiness of Water Efficiency