The environmental impact of golf courses

The environmental impact of golf courses

Because golf courses are a place of recreation, many people might not realize the negative impact that they have on the environment. High water usage, disruption of wildlife, and the use of pesticides upon their installment are just some of the reasons behind this environmental impact.

Maintaining golf courses requires a lot of water. According to the New York Times, there are 16,000 golf courses in the United States, and they use 1.5 billion gallons of water a day. Using these measurements, each golf course uses an average of 93,750 gallons of water per day.

That water has to come from somewhere. In the report “Golf Course Irrigation — Where Does It Come From?,” Chris Hartwiger points out that the majority of this water comes from lakes and on-site wells, as well as lesser sources like the municipal water system, recycled water, and canals.

Because of climate change, lakes in the U.S. are already experiencing a shortage of water. Redirecting water to golf courses is taking a vital resource from the environment that wildlife relies on to survive.

Focusing on affected wildlife, planting turfgrass where local plants previously grew can disrupt local habitats. Animals are deprived of food sources and living spaces to make way for new courses.

Herbicides and pesticides used on golf courses also have the potential to cause harm to wildlife, as described in the article “Spotlight: Pollution Exposures at Golf Courses,” by Michelle Huitt. If these liquids seep into the soil and groundwater, animals can be exposed to life-threatening chemicals. Additionally, many golf courses keep pesticides and herbicides in above ground storage tanks, which presents the risk of spills and leaks.

The golf industry has recently started to make efforts to become more environmentally friendly. For example, the United States Golf Association will devote $30 million to reducing their water usage over the next 14 years. Furthermore, the USGA recognizes the impact of pesticides on golf courses and that there is “pressure to reduce chemical inputs.” However, they contend that diseases threatening the susceptible turf complicate the elimination of pesticides.

There have also been efforts from outside the golf industry to promote environmentally friendly alternatives. In recent years, many golf courses have been restored into natural parks, reserves, and landscapes.

An example is Orchard Hills Park, located in Chesterland, Ohio. Its restoration began in 2007, and was partially funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Federal Clean Water Act Section 319(h), which funds projects aiming to reduce water pollution. In order to return the land to its original conditions as a beech and maple forest, three acres of wetlands, 22 acres of meadow, 50 acres of woods, and 1,500 linear feet of river had to be restored.

The overall water quality and health of local streams has increased as a result of Orchard Hill Park’s conservation. Now, the 237-acre park offers six recreational trails, sledding during the winter, and a playground for children.

There is still progress to be made in terms of negating the environmental impacts of golf courses. For the time being, steps towards replacing destructive practices with positive ones are important to reducing the harm done by golf courses.

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