PACE Turf - Turfgrass Information Center

Pennsylvania Golf Course Water Survey

Summary: Before judging the quality of irrigation water sources, it is important to consider the turfgrass-soil system at each golf course. If the course accepts water during irrigation and rainfall without puddling, the first step in course evaluation is complete – hydraulic conductivity and drainage are adequate. With good infiltration and drainage, soils can be amended using a variety of products to provide turfgrasses with a healthy growing medium.  If puddling occurs easily during irrigation or rainfall, the turf-soil system may be more difficult to manage and both water and soil testing will be needed to determine the cause of the poor water movement. This water survey provides only a portion of the results needed to evaluate golf course turfgrass systems.

Based upon the results of this survey, the majority of the irrigation waters will benefit from an increase in salinity to improve penetration of the water into the soil.  Pure water sources with a total dissolved salt content of less than 320 ppm do not easily infiltrate soils and frequently benefit from injection of gypsum or acid to increase the salt content of the water.  The advantage of gypsum injection is the concomitant reduction of the water SAR as a result of calcium delivered in the gypsum. Acid injection is not recommended because there is no residual sodium carbonate in any of the samples and the resulting benefits are not as great as injection of gypusm. 
The guidelines and summary data provided below only address water quality issues – consideration of soil chemistry is needed to complete the analysis.  Five irrigation water sources were identified:

  1. Domestic:  Good quality water that is slightly too pure to infiltrate soils effectively.  The average domestic water will benefit from gypsum injection to improve the salinity of the water and the cation balance.
  2. Recycled: The recycled water is the most problematic due to the elevated level of nitrogen. The 8 ppm nitrate nitrogen will potentially provide excessive nitrogen during the Docket # 03100302_water.doc 01/10/04 page 2 season that will result in excessive growth and potentially increased susceptibility to diseases such as gray leaf spot.
  3. Lake: The lake waters are similar to stream and well water samples.  Elevated iron levels at 0.4 ppm suggest that some pipe scaling might occur.  The lake water will benefit from injection of gypsum to increase the salinity and to reduce the SAR of the water.
  4. Stream: Stream waters are very similar to lake and well waters
  5. Well: Well waters are very similar to lake and stream waters

No serious problems were identified for any of the water sources.  The most common water quality problem is the modest requirement for gypsum injection to increase the salinity of the water to improve penetration into the soil surface. Further evaluation of soil conditions at each course and rainfall patterns will help provide a complete picture.

Printable version of full report

Cooperators:  Mike Fidanza Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Larry Stowell, Ph.D.

Sponsors:  Participating golf course superintendent’s, Pennsylvania State University, PACE Turfgrass Research Institute


Visit PACE Turf on Facebook! Visit PACE Turf on YouTube! Follow PACE Turf on Twitter!