A trip to the average golf course, with its lush landscaping, green grass, colorful fauna, tall trees and sparkling ponds of water might leave many people in awe of nature and grateful that even in some of the most unlikely places, like the desert of Arizona or Nevada, a beautiful greenbelt is found. Covered in green, it must be environmentally friendly, right? Despite its vibrant green surroundings, most golf courses are not environmentally friendly. From the large amounts of water they use to the landscaping chemicals and the poisons they employ to control pests like gophers and bugs, many golf courses find themselves at odds with the environmental movement. But some golf courses are working to overcome the negative image they might have with environmentalists.
Keeping the grass green and the flowers blooming takes a lot of water and many golf courses are known as water hogs. but some golf courses, especially in water shortage states like Arizona and Nevada use effluent, a friendly word for recycled sewer water. Like several golf courses in drought-ridden states, the Arizona City Golf Course, in Arizona City, Arizona, many years ago entered into a private-public agreements between sanitary districts and golf course. The golf course receives the sanitary district’s treated waste-water to fill its ponds and water its landscaping while the sanitary district has a place to dispose of the effluent free of charge. The deal, which in Arizona City’s case has endured since the late 1970s, is a win-win for both entities. Water watchers and environmentalists because the golf course is not using fresh water and reusing an existing resource. Effluent production is tied to population – when the population grows, so grows the amount of effluent a sanitary district produces. But using effluent on golf courses does pose its challenges – just ask anyone who lives near a golf course lake that is routinely filled with effluent. Even though it is treated, when the lake is being filled, it has a distinctly unpleasant odor. Particles in the effluent can sometimes clog irrigation equipment and lead to water wastage. Effluent also requires a great deal of chemicals to kill pathogens and organisms to make the water suitable for reuse on the golf course. So while effluent may gradually become more commonly used for golf course irrigation, there are challenges to overcome.
Audubon International, on its Golf and Environment website, says: “By their very nature, golf courses provide significant natural areas that benefit people and wildlife in increasingly urbanized communities across North America. At the same time, golf’s use of chemicals, water, and other resources to maintain pristine golfing conditions is often criticized for threatening the quality of our environment.” The organization says that golf courses might pollute the ground water and surface water with pesticide and fertilizer runoff which can have a negative impact on wildlife.
But the organization also says that golf courses can become wildlife sanctuaries and could work to preserve natural areas in urban areas. On its website, the organization offers a list of Audubon-certified golf courses that have demonstrated that they are good stewards of the land. It also offers tips for golfers who would like to encourage their local golf course to go green. More information is available on the organization’s website, www.golfandenvironment.com
Audubon International, Golf and Environment Web site, http://www.golfandenvironment.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=62, visited June 1, 2010.