Reduce Fertilizer Runoff from Golf Courses


Target: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Goal: Reduce fertilizer runoff from golf courses by incentivizing participation in environmentally conscious maintenance program

Rivers, streams and lakes can become less hospitable to aquatic life when fertilizer and pesticide runoff from adjacent landscaping introduces large amounts of pollution, increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water. Golf courses are a major culprit – keeping them in shape requires large amounts of both of these environmentally dangerous chemicals. Or does it?

GreenScapes, a program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), can help golf courses to greatly reduce their use of fertilizers and pesticides, while at the same time help reduce landfill volume and even cut groundskeeping costs for golf courses or any installation that has large lawns.

After two large surveys of rivers and streams and the impact on them from fertilizer runoff, the EPA has yet to take any regulatory action against golf courses to mitigate the problem. This petition to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy proposes a solution that is voluntary and is driven by tax-based incentives. If the EPA partners with Congress to institute a program in which golf course superintendents can become GreenScapes certified through adoption of the environmentally responsible practices detailed in that program, then a tax credit could be a reward sufficient enough to encourage participation.

Of course, verifying compliance would be very expensive, but if there were an online method of certification that superintendents could participate in, then surely a large number of them would honestly report the adoption of the program, leaving the affected bodies of water much better off on the whole. If Congress or the EPA wants to put a little bit of teeth into enforcement, then random on-site spot checks on the premises with fines for violations might be arranged to keep cheaters in check.

This petition is a suggestion that carries more weight with each signature, and if Administrator McCarthy sees a large amount of support, surely the health of our rivers, streams and lakes can be improved and protected without the nasty fight that any proposed mandate might bring.


Dear EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy,

The problem of fertilizer and pesticide runoff from golf courses might not be easily addressed by regulatory actions, particularly when you consider that those in the industry tend to be both well heeled and well connected. But by incentivizing voluntary environmentally responsible groundskeeping practices with tax breaks for certified participants of the GreenScapes program, the EPA could promote widespread adoption of healthy upkeep of the many thousands of acres of golf courses nationally.

I understand that there will be those who fraudulently claim the tax credit, but think – the cheaters will be in the minority, and it’s a small price to pay for the benefits realized by having the rest honestly participating, thus significantly reducing fertilizer and pesticide runoff.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Dan Perry via Flickr

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82 Signatures

  • Alice Rim
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