It is common belief that golf courses are water hogs, which means that a lot of water goes to waste in maintaining them. This is not surprising because the lush green fields and perfectly manicured grass of golf courses often suggest that our community’s valuable resources are getting used up just so that the few elite can spend some leisure time. In spite of this perception, a recent article in the Sun Sentinel reported that instead of guzzling up precious water, many golf courses are contributing to the replenishment of drinking water.
How golf courses replenish drinking water
Although most people believe that golf courses contribute to water shortage, the grass on these courses can be highly beneficial for replenishing water supply during the rainy season. For instance, an average of 2-3% of the water in South Florida is used up every year by golf courses. During heavy rainfall seasons, they also give back almost 15 times the total water used up. According to the South Florida Water Management District’s Water Supply Administrator, Mark Elsner, the open spaces of golf courses and the grass fields are necessary for recharging the aquifer.
The national statistics indicated that an average 18-golf course is covered with 100 acres of turf grass. This type of grass is useful for filling up the Biscayne Aquifer with clean, drinking water. This aquifer is the main source of drinking water for residents in Palm Beach County. The dense roots of the grass filter any pollutants found in the rain water, including pesticides and chemicals, which can be harmful for the county’s residents. They also prevent the rainwater from running off-site, absorbing it back into the soil. This means that golf courses serve as an extra layer of filter for purifying water with high levels of phosphorus, salt, and nitrogen.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the quality of water can be affected to a significant extent by the presence of contaminants like phosphorus and nitrogen. Golf course managers have put a great deal of effort in preventing these harmful pollutants from entering the community water supply. Calculated chemical applications are used in maintaining the courses, so that the soil remains intact and free of harmful substances.
Golf courses contributing to the water recycling process
From what we have learnt so far about the water replenishment process in golf courses, it is safe to say that they play a critical role in the water recycling process. During the months of May and June in the year 2013, there was an average rainfall of 21 inches in the county, meaning that golf courses rarely relied on irrigated water. In the course of 60 days, the 142 golf courses in Palm Beach County collected over 60 billion gallons of drinking water. This calculation is based on the average rainfall records in the South Florida Water Management District combined with the county’s 21,300 acres of golfing greens.
These reports are clear proof that golf courses are not really water hogs but a necessity in rainwater harvesting and water recycling. Instead of guzzling up the community’s precious water resources, golf courses can give back plenty of clean, drinking water for a better environment.
Melinda Bailey is an avid golfer and the Executive Editor of 9 & Dine Women’s Golf Apparel blog. You can connect with Melinda via Twitter @9Dine.