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If Weld County becomes a golf course destination, the water needs to come from somewhere

Developers will have to buy existing water rights to maintain the land.

DENVER — New golf courses are planned for an area of Colorado known for ranches and open space.

And with golf comes the need for water.

While Aurora has banned future golf courses, the town of Roggen, in unincorporated Weld County, is expecting up to six new courses.

Rodeo Dunes is a golf project planned for 2,000 acres off Interstate 76 about an hour northeast of downtown Denver.

The developers, Mike and Chris Keiser, have bought the land and the water rights from the ranch owners, the Cervis, a well-known rodeo family.

“I found out about [the golf courses] at a Chamber of Commerce dinner down in the Wild Animal Sanctuary, I believe in February, so that’s where I first heard about it,” said Republican Weld County Commissioner Kevin Ross.

The plan is for construction to start this summer, with the first course opening in 2025.

What about the water the course will need?

“As far as water goes, it’s not a concern for me,” Ross said. “This is ag water, as I understand it, that is potentially going to be used for this project.”

The developers have filed a request with the state to be able to use the water on the property for golf course irrigation.

There are eight groundwater wells that, combined, provided 1,156 acre-feet of water for the ranchland. The developers are seeking permission to use the water currently allowed, but for golf.

One acre-foot of water is enough to serve three suburban homes for a year. That means 1,156 acre-feet of water is enough to serve 3,468 homes for a year.

“Weld County is not being wasteful and, quite frankly, water is a private property right,” Ross said.

“If this ranch is groundwater dependent, there’s only a certain life to that and that can be problematic down the road,” said Aurora mayor Mike Coffman.

Last year, Coffman helped lead an effort to ban future golf courses in the city of Aurora, as well as ornamental turf and large lawns, as a way to conserve water.

“How I arrived at that was in learning that a golf course can use up to, in the summer, can use up to a million gallons of water a day,” Coffman said.

“Golf uses less than 1% of the state’s water,” said Ed Mate, executive director of the Colorado Golf Association. “The lion’s share of the water in this state, like most states, is for agriculture.”

Mate points to an economic and environmental study released in 2021 showing the state’s 236 golf courses do not use the amount of water that most people suspect.

“There’s 33,000 acres of golf. And of that, 16,000, is actually maintained. So, less than half,” Mate said. “The areas of unmaintained turf grass has gone up.”

The courses planned for Roggen would resemble courses of Scotland and England more than a lush country club.

“Golf is managed by turf grass experts, men and women with degrees in horticulture and turf grass science,” Mate said. “Frankly, if homeowners managed their turf as well as golf course superintendents manage golf courses, we’d be a lot better off as a state.”

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