Ontario's Water Hazard - the cumulative impact of golf courses on our water resources

TORONTO – An investigative report was released today highlighting the toll golf courses are taking on Ontario’s water resources. A joint report by Earthroots and Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund), Ontario’s Water Hazard reveals that golf courses located within environmentally sensitive watersheds are taking billions of litres of water each year and that there are serious inadequacies in how the Ontario government manages water taking permits.

“There are serious problems with how the province allocates water taking permits,” said Hugh Wilkins, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “Our investigation has revealed that inadequate reporting methods and regulatory lapses have allowed some courses to continue operating with an expired water taking permit for as long as 17 years.”

The report specifically investigated provincial Permits to Take Water given to nine golf courses in the Aurora and Newmarket area, north of Toronto on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The analysis presents an unsettling picture of how much of the province’s water resources are being allocated for the use of golf courses.

“Ontarians would be shocked to learn that these 9 golf courses alone have been allocated more than 3 billion litres of water each year,” said Josh Garfinkel, campaigner for Earthroots.  “This is enough to supply all annual water needs for a community of nearly 25,000 people.”

In addition to the 9 courses highlighted, the report identifies 41 golf courses on the Oak Ridges Moraine and 28 courses within 5 kilometres of the Moraine.  Aside from the tremendous thirst for groundwater, the report discusses the environmental threat these types of operations pose due to the quantities of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are typically used to maintain unnatural golf course terrains.

The report discusses the implications of increasing demands for groundwater from industry, new communities, and other heavy users like golf courses that will continue to place a strain on our water resources, something that will be further intensified by expected changes in the amount of water available due to global warming.

“We realize that golf is a sport enjoyed by many citizens of Ontario,” said Earthroots campaigner Josh Kohler.  “But there is such a high concentration of water intensive operations within sensitive watersheds, that the government must better allocate our water resources.”

The report provides a series of recommendations to remedy the regulatory and enforcement gaps and points to a growing movement in the US to manage golf courses more sustainably, through limiting the use of water and other harmful chemicals. “It is time for Ontario to bring its practices up to par,” added Garfinkel.

For more information, please contact: Josh Kohler or Josh Garfinkel, Earthroots campaigners (416-599-0152) or Hugh Wilkins (416-368-7533 ext. 34)


To read the report, please click here:

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