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 do not pose significant risks to environmental quality, wildlife or 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 worked with the Waters Advocacy Coalition to oppose the rule; the rule was officially struck down by the court system.
GCSAA worked with those in the Trump Administration to repeal and replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule. On April 21, 2020, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers published the final Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the Federal Register to provide a revised definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. GCSAA supported efforts by EPA and the Corps and within Congress to repeal WOTUS and replace it with a rule that protected water while providing clarity to golf course superintendents regarding the inputs they use at their facilities.