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Using Effluent Water On Golf CoursesWater is the most precious resource on Earth. And despite the amazing ability of turfgrass to use water efficiently, concerns about conservation have led golf courses to increasingly turn to effluent water for irrigation.
Sometimes called "gray water," effluent is essentially partially treated wastewater from community sewage or industry. It usually is cleansed of major pollutants, but still contains enough trace amounts of saline (salt), heavy metals (such as zinc and cadmium) and bacteria to render it undrinkable.
In the past, communities often simply dumped effluent back into lakes and rivers. But today, golf courses are being viewed as environmentally desirable disposal sites for effluent. In fact, golf courses can serve as highly effective wastewater treatment facilities for this partially polluted water.
Dense, well-managed turfgrass areas are among the best filtration systems available for polluted water. The thatch layer in turf, which consists of dead and decaying organic material, traps and holds particulate pollutants in the water and allows them to degrade naturally. The effluent that goes on the course as irrigation is actually cleansed and returned to lakes, streams and groundwater supplies.
Communities are now recognizing that golf courses can provide an important environmental service by disposing of effluent. Recently, the city of Prineville, Ore., constructed a municipal golf course specifically to dispose of the community's wastewater. The city's innovative solution earned it recognition as the first-ever recipient of Golf Digestmagazine's Environmental Leader Award.
Although the use of effluent on golf courses poses challenges for superintendents who must cope with high salinity and other pollutants, golfers should not notice any differences (other than an occasional early morning odor). However, because some wastewater still contains e-coli and other bacteria, golfers should pay heed to posted warnings about contact with effluent water that is being stored in ponds or sprayed through sprinklers.
In all, the growing use of effluent on golf courses is another example of why golf is increasingly being recognized as a model environmental industry for the 21st century.