Our Experts Explain

What steps should golf courses be taking to protect water quality?



Protecting water quality is obviously a very important responsibility of golf courses to the environment and its community. Recommended steps include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • One of the best ways to protect surface water quality is to use riparian vegetated buffers along the banks of golf course wetlands, streams and other water bodies. Buffers function as filters that catch and trap sediment, nutrients, pesticides and pollutants before reaching surface waters. Buffer strips and vegetation along water bodies, or throughout drainage swales and channels, also help to prevent soil erosion, further protecting water quality.
  • Turf areas adjacent to water bodies can be designated as “no-spray” or “limited-spray” zones, which reduce the risk of applied plant protectants from entering water sources.
  • Wetlands, if on or adjacent to your golf course, should be managed as natural areas with their habitat structure and existing hydrology fully protected. Furthermore, be aware that there are municipal, state and federal agencies that administer statutes and regulations protecting wetlands, so it is recommended to work with such agencies.
  • Use soil cultivation techniques such as spiking, slicing and aeration to improve water infiltration and minimize runoff during irrigation or rainfall events.
  •  Fertilizing in small amounts, commonly referred to as “spoon feeding,” helps reduce the potential for fertilizer runoff. When making larger fertilizer applications, use slow-release fertilizers. For fertilizers and plant protectants that are required to be watered into the soil, make sure to do so appropriately.
  • Avoid overwatering that could cause excessive soil leaching or produce surface water runoff.
  • Properly designed, modern irrigation systems will help to make the best use of water and reduce runoff.
  • When it comes to the maintenance facility, properly store, handle and dispose of chemicals; ensure that spills are contained; and clean equipment in a way that does not allow chemicals to enter water sources.
  • Ultimately, one of the best things all golf facilities can do to protect water quality is to maintain healthy turf. Not only does healthy turf require less fertilizer and plant protectants than weak turf, but a dense stand of turf is very efficient in filtering and cleansing water. A healthy stand of turf will prevent soil erosion, reduce surface water runoff and intercept pollutants in the water before reaching groundwater sources.
  • Curious if your golf facility impacts water quality in your area? If water bodies run through your golf course, test water quality where water enters the property and also where it exits. Once this is known, corrective measures can be taken, if necessary.


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