Water Use on Ontario Golf Courses
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The golf industry is an important sector of the recreation and tourism economy in Canada. In 2009, the Canadian golf industry generated an estimated total direct economic activity of CND$29.4 billion dollars and created over 300,000 jobs for Canadian residents. Within Canada, Ontario is the dominant province with regards to golf’s gross domestic product (GDP). In 2009, the 848 golf courses in Ontario generated $11.5 billion, which equates to 38.7% of Canada’s golf GDP (Strategic Networks Group, 2009). Due to the economic and employment benefits of the Ontario golf industry and its sizeable land use, it is important to fully understand the environmental impacts of golf courses. While concerns have been raised regarding water consumption by the Ontario golf industry, the golf industry in Ontario has never responded to these criticisms with actual water taking data to support their claims of environmental sustainability. Water withdrawals and water use efficiency among golf courses have yet to be quantified by the Province, the golf industry or its critics. This study uses daily water withdrawal data, self reported by 129 golf courses, to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) from 2007 to 2012. The water taking data is used to examine biophysical golf course characteristics that influence water use, to estimate annual water use by golf courses in Ontario, to identify the potential for water use reductions through best management practices (BMPs) and to explore how climate change may influence future golf course water use in Ontario. This study provides a first approximation of water use by irrigation for golf courses in Ontario. The analyses that examined the biophysical characteristics of golf courses indicated that soil type and golf course type influenced water use. During a dry season, golf courses composed of sand and silt dominated soils were found to require more water than they did during a climatically normal season. With regards to golf course type, premier private and private golf courses were found to use a greater quantity of water during both normal and dry seasons when compared to public and semi-private golf courses. The provincial water use analysis revealed that during a climatically normal season, 50.5 billion L of water is used to irrigate Ontario golf courses. Irrigation increased (58%) to 79.9 billion L during a season that was 1.2°C warmer and 29% dryer than normal. This finding indicates that under anticipated climate change by the 2050s, water use on golf courses in southern Ontario could increase by 151% current levels. The analysis for potential water savings for Ontario golf courses revealed that water use reductions of 35% are possible if golf courses adopt similar maintenance and irrigation practices to more efficient golf courses (80th percentile) in Ontario. Further research regarding maintenance practices on golf courses should be carried out to understand what best management practices result in water efficiency among courses. Also, due to the self-reporting nature of the water taking program with the MOE, it has been recommended that a more strict and automated monitoring system be implemented. Lastly, it is strongly believed that in order for the province wide water savings to be achieved, collaboration between the government and the golf industry will be needed. This study is the first approximate of water use for Ontario golf courses, however, more research is needed to examine the MOE’s water taking data in detail to better understand the determinants of water use among similar golf courses.