Water quality is a critical issue for golf facilities for both surface water and groundwater. Golf courses serve as important water treatment systems. Healthy turfgrass is a filter that traps and holds pollutants in place; golf courses serve as catch basins for residential and industrial runoff; many courses are effective disposal sites for effluent wastewater and have agreements with local municipalities for this purpose. Modern turfgrass management practices greatly reduce the potential for leaching or runoff into water supplies. Independent university research supports the fact that well-managed golf courses promote environmental quality for wildlife and human health.
Some areas of the U.S. require golf courses to use reclaimed, effluent or other nonpotable water sources for irrigation and it is important there is access to water suitable for use on turfgrass. Many golf course superintendents monitor water quality of streams and groundwater. Golf courses can also have a significant impact on groundwater recharge, especially in suburban areas. The turfgrass system acts as a living filter for reclaimed wastewater as measured by the leachate that percolates below the rootzone. This leachate helps with the recharging of aquifers.
In April 2014, the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers under the Obama Administration issued a proposed rule that would redefine “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under all Clean Water Act (CWA) programs. The proposed regulation would have broadened the scope of CWA jurisdiction beyond constitutional and statutory limits established by Congress and recognized by the Supreme Court. Since the 2015 Clean Water Rule was first proposed by EPA and the Corps, GCSAA repeatedly argued that its sweeping scope over rivers, streams, wetlands and ditches would result in an expensive, unpredictable and unnecessary permitting process for golf courses across the country. GCSAA led efforts in the golf industry - and also worked with our allies in the Waters Advocacy Coalition – to oppose the rule. These efforts helped lead to its repeal by the Trump Administration in 2019.
In 2020, the Trump Administration proposed the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). The NWPR provided golf with needed clarity by: 1) Limiting the definition of tributaries; 2) Limiting the definition of adjacent wetlands; and 3) Limiting ditches included under federal jurisdiction. The NWPR was ground in cooperative federalism also. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration repealed the NWPR in 2022. A new rule defining WOTUS was drafted by the EPA and the Corps and has been sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review. GCSAA weighed in with public comment in opposition. It is expected to be published in the Federal Register before the end of 2022.