6 Water Quality Monitoring
Aligning golf course management practices with BMPs protects water quality on and downstream from the facility. A water quality monitoring program can confirm the effectiveness of a BMP-based program and can provide important feedback on areas needing improvement. Water quality monitoring can be used to determine whether outside events are changing the quality of water entering the golf course or whether the golf course is having a positive, neutral, or negative effect on water quality. It also can provide a body of evidence of the golf course’s environmental impact. Monitoring demonstrates a commitment both to water quality and to implementing BMPs that protect water resources downstream. Furthermore, providing monitoring information to local, regional, and state regulatory authorities and watershed groups can help foster positive relationships with these stakeholders.
The following sections of this chapter provide an overview of establishing a water quality monitoring program. More detailed information on developing a water quality monitoring program for golf courses has been published in Environmental Best Management Practices for Virginia’s Golf Courses, which also provides an example of a water quality monitoring report in Appendix A.
6.1 Regulatory Considerations
Surface water quality is regulated under the CWA. DNREC monitors water quality to determine compliance with its water quality standards. Surface water monitoring on golf courses is not a regulatory requirement, but it does demonstrate to regulators and the interested public the role of golf course superintendents in protecting the state’s natural resources. The results of any monitoring programs should be compared with Title 7401, Delaware Surface Water Quality Standards.
6.2 Existing Water Quality Information
Golf course superintendents seeking to develop and implement a monitoring program to document water quality conditions should first review available baseline water quality data. Baseline data can be assessed to determine the likely origin of contaminants, measure the extent of sedimentation and nutrient inputs, and estimate the potential impacts to surface water and groundwater. A number of state and federal programs monitor surface water and groundwater quality:
- DNREC’s Surface Water Quality Monitoring Program maintains a General Assessment Monitoring Network of about 140 stations throughout the state.
- The Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Section, with the assistance of the Delaware Geological Survey, has established a network of groundwater monitoring wells throughout the state south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. These wells are used primarily to monitor the state’s groundwater for pesticides.
- The United State Geological Survey (USGS) monitors surface water and groundwater throughout the US, including maintaining monitoring wells and stations in Delaware.
- The Delaware Nature Society maintains a network of monitoring sites using citizen volunteers to collect physical, chemical and biological data in a number of watersheds in the state.
Data from these monitoring programs are available online at the following sites:
- Delaware Water Quality Portal
- Delaware Groundwater Monitoring Program for Pesticides
- National Ground-Water Monitoring Network
- USGS Surface Water Data for Delaware
- Delaware Nature Society StreamWatch Watershed Data Center
6.3 Developing a Water Quality Monitoring Program
A water quality program begins with the development of a monitoring plan. The plan should identify site-specific characteristics such as the watershed, stream flows, soil type, topography, and drainage. The plan should also identify the monitoring objectives, locations, frequency and parameters. Baseline reference conditions can be established by collecting upstream water samples and comparing them with collection sites downstream of the areas influenced by golf course management practices and/or reviewing existing water quality data from representative locations.
Surface water collection sites can include streams, rivers, ponds, wetlands, etc., with the number and location of collection sites dependent upon monitoring objectives. For example, a simple monitoring program can consist of the collection of DO data in surface waterbodies to ensure that these waterbodies can support aquatic life. A more comprehensive monitoring program should include both field measurements (pH, temperature, DO, etc.) and analytical testing (e.g. nitrates, phosphorus, total dissolved solids, etc.). An extensive program could include the collection of macroinvetebrate data. Regardless of the extent of the monitoring program, the location of monitoring sites should remain consistent over time to establish trends in data. Facilities could consider partnering with schools, universities or non profit organizations (such as the Delaware Nature Society’s StreamWatch program) to develop a monitoring program.
In some instances, groundwater monitoring may be desired. Groundwater monitoring from wells located at the hydrologic entrance and exit from the course may be the best way to evaluate a golf course’s impact on water quality. If groundwater monitoring data from these locations are not available from existing sources, monitoring wells at the hydrologic entrance and exit from a course can be installed by private companies. Groundwater quality parameters can be limited to test only the ones directly influenced by course management, such as levels of pesticides and organic and inorganic nitrogen. DNREC regulates the installation of monitoring and observation wells. For further information, see the general guidelines and information published by DNREC.
Water quality monitoring of irrigation sources (particularly water supply wells and storage lakes) provides valuable agronomic information that can influence nutrient programs. Immunoassay analysis may be possible and can be a cost-effective method for monitoring, depending on the analytical goals and the number of samples. To save money, several golf courses could pool resources and share immunoassay analyzer equipment and kits. See the “Irrigation” chapter of this document for more information on irrigation-related water quality issues.
6.4 Interpreting Water Quality Testing Results
Interpretation and use of water quality monitoring data depend to a large extent on the goal of the monitoring program. For example, the results may be analyzed to compare:
- values over time
- values following implementation of BMPs, such as IPM measures
- monitoring points entering the site and leaving the site
6.5 Water Quality Monitoring Best Management Practices
Water Quality Monitoring Program Best Management Practices
- Review existing sources of groundwater and surface water quality information.
- Develop a water quality monitoring program.
- Establish baseline quality levels for water.
- Identify appropriate sampling locations and sample at the same locations in the future.
- Visually monitor/assess any specific changes of surface waterbodies.
- Follow recommended sample collection and analytical procedures.
- Conduct seasonal water quality sampling, ideally four times per year.
Water Quality Test Result Analysis Best Management Practices
- Compare water quality monitoring results to benchmark quality standards.
- Use corrective measures when necessary.