Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Carol Wessman

Second Advisor

Dale Miller

Third Advisor

Dr. Pieter Johnson


This project examined whether or not runoff from golf courses in Colorado is contributing to nutrient enrichment and eutrophication in aquatic communities, similarly to agricultural runoff and sewage discharge. Existing political and scientific strategies were referenced in an effort and build a monitoring technique that has the potential for a solution that can bridge the gap between the golfing and ecological communities. Upstream and downstream water samples were collected from eight different golf courses in Colorado, and analyzed in the laboratory for concentrations of Total Nitrogen (TN), Total Phosphorus (TP), and turbidity. Downstream concentrations of TN and TP were significantly higher than upstream concentrations, while there was no difference in turbidity. Compared to the Environmental Protection Agency's "Ambient Water Quality Criteria Recommendations," only some golf courses were above the EPA's recommendations for TN and TP. Three different techniques were used to determine if each sampled course was an environmental concern, a potential environmental concern, or an unlikely environmental concern, with courses falling in each group. Golf courses could be an overlooked cause of eutrophication in aquatic communities, and further research is needed to conclude with greater statistical influence. This study encourages changes in golf course management on select courses and increased water sampling on all sampled courses, which will hopefully lead to a large increase in water quality around these courses. Golf courses present unique ecological opportunities and can act as areas of ecological refuge, if managed properly.