Keeping Your Golf Water Features Healthy

If you are in the golf course industry today, you are in the business of water management. There’s inevitably the matter of too much or too little water; water where you don’t want it, but not where you do; and all of the issues that arise from reptiles, plants, birds, fish, algae, and fungi that take up residence regardless of whether or not they are welcomed.

To help you address water issues, you’ll find a range of specialized companies, some with an assortment of offerings and others that target the products or services they deliver. With the diversity of golf course designs, climates and budgets, each of the many companies fills an important niche and helps make the job of the golf course superintendent easier.


Time, environmental changes, use and misuse, all contribute to water features becoming unpleasant and unattractive. Typically, you are facing a cyclical problem in which debris builds up on the pond floor, creating a dark layer of sludge composed of both organic and inorganic matter.

As sludge accumulates, it contributes to low oxygen levels, algae blooms, and the unpleasant smell of decay and sulfur. Without oxygen, anaerobic bacteria thrive and crowd out some beneficial organisms, and kill others with the byproducts the anaerobic bacteria produce. With more living matter dying and feeding the ever-growing layer of pond sludge, the problem escalates and becomes a cycle that can be difficult to escape.

The process is termed eutrophication, which essentially means well-nourished or, in the case of lakes and ponds, overnourished by either or both naturally occurring nutrients or man-made chemical nutrients, which are typically compounds containing nitrogen or phosphorus.
Strategies for dealing with the challenges of eutrophication include:

  • Preventing excessive sludge from forming
  • Introducing aerobic and other healthy bacteria
  • Adding oxygen via an aerator
  • Physically removing the sludge
  • And often, a multi-pronged approach that utilizes various techniques


US Aqua Vac Inc. (

Sometimes, the right answer for your troubled aquatic environment is not to clean it up, but rather to clean it out. When you need or want to see your pond or water feature return quickly to its original (or near original) healthy state, you may choose to remove the sludge and debris that is causing your problems.

The people at US Aqua Vac describe the services they deliver as, “a non-messy, muck, sludge, silt and sediment removal process.” With offices across the U.S., from Florida to California, a US Aqua Vac team can quickly be on-site at your golf course, helping resolve your clogged intake problem or another emergency. As part of their process, US Aqua Vac may use robotic machines, barges or well-trained commercial divers.

The Vice President of Operations at US Aqua Vac, Brian Pril, sums his company’s service up simply by saying, “Horsepower removes dirt. Smaller companies may show up at your golf course with sludge removal equipment that runs on motors so small they could be lawnmower engines. Where many companies use 8 HP equipment, our average machine, which is roughly the size of a golf cart, is powered by a 70 HP engine.”



Outdoor Water Solutions (

Outdoor Water Solutions is an Arkansas-based company that sells a wide range of aeration and pond maintenance products. Their representative, John Redd, shares an overview of aerators and products available through Outdoor Water Solutions and other companies to help you deal with water maintenance problems.

John writes, “There are several options available for aeration. They include surface aerators, fountains and bottom diffused aeration using wind, solar, and electricity. A description of each is as follows:

  • Surface aerators are effective on ponds with higher fish stocking rates. They can add supplemental oxygen needed to keep fish alive in the warmer summer months. They’re not as effective as bottom-diffused aeration in circulating the water from top to bottom and eliminating stratification unless the pond is fairly shallow (< 8 feet).
  • Fountains look great but are not really designed for aeration. They can help, especially in shallow ponds but do not add as much oxygen as a surface aerator or bottom diffused aerator.
  • Windmill aeration systems are great systems for where you do not have electricity or where you don’t want to spend money on electricity. You do need to have access to an area where there’s some wind to turn a windmill. Typically, each windmill will need 3-6 mph of wind to turn. For a windmill to be effective, you would need an average of 6-8 hours of wind each day. On some days, there might not be any wind. On others, you might have 24 hours of constant wind, but, if you can average 6-8 hours a day, you can get enough wind to aerate and circulate your pond.
  • Electric Aerators – There are many good electric aerator options out there, if you have access to electricity. You can then aerate 24 hours a day or put the aerator on a timer and aerate 12-14 hours if you want. Most electric aerators are one of three types – linear diaphragm, rotary vane or rocking piston in design.
  • Solar is also a viable option but can be more expensive than using electricity or wind for a given CFM output but in some areas and some cases solar aeration is the best way to go. Recently, Outdoor Water Solutions just introduced a new line of Direct Drive Solar aerators that are affordable and yet very effective at aeration.
  • AerMaster Direct Drive Solar Aerator – Another option is to integrate a windmill aeration system or a solar aerator and an electric aerator into the same system. Both would share the same airlines and diffusers. A control box as sold by Outdoor Water Solutions could be used to manage the two by turning on the electric aerator when the wind isn’t blowing and shutting it back off when the wind starts. This option allows you to aerate 24 hours a day and to do it as cost effective as possible given you’re using wind or solar energy as often as possible.”

Linne Industries (

Linne Industries offers a solar-powered approach to pond aeration with its subsurface aerator, the patent-pending PondHawk. This system integrates a solar panel, compressor, wiring, and airline into a steel enclosure that is powder-coated for durability and tamper-resistant for security. The solar-powered PondHawk provides a quiet and unobtrusive way to increase levels of dissolved oxygen in the bottom of your ponds, while eliminating stratification by circulating the pond water, all without the costs of buying batteries or spending money on electricity to power the process.
Delivered preassembled as a fully operational system, the PondHawk normally can be installed within a few hours. Golf courses needn’t be in the Sunbelt to benefit from the PondHawk. The system is designed to work in very low levels of solar insolation (the amount of solar radiation received on a given surface), although it achieves peak output during the spring and summer months when aeration is typically most beneficial.

The PondHawk:

  • Sits on dry land in proximity to the water, approximately six and a half feet above the ground
  • Weighs 106 pounds excluding the mast and the foundation, which may require up to 350 pounds or 5 – 50 pound bags of quick set concrete product
  • Services a pond up to 1 acre in size and up to 12 feet in depth
  • Comes with one to three diffusers (depending on pond shape) that are each connected to an air line
  • Operates year-round, including on cloudy days or during light rain

Integrated Lakes Management (ILM) (

ILM is an environmental services company that serves Northeastern Illinois, Southeastern Wisconsin and Northwestern Indiana. Golf courses partner with ILM for their services in consulting, management and ecological restoration of both aquatic and earth environments.

Designing chemical-free options for removing silt, sediment, cattails, algae, and submerged weeds, ILM helps golf courses recover pond capacity while creating a healthier aquatic environment. ILM also rents, sells, and maintains aerating fountains and sub-surface aeration systems and offers winter services for your equipment during which they handle preventative and factory scheduled maintenance and any necessary removal, installation and storage.

Understanding the many factors and forces that contribute to the health and appearance of your ponds and water features, ILM helps you implement and maintain a plan that fits your course’s needs and your maintenance objectives. Company Vice President, Sarah Zink said, “We find that many of our clients require a thoughtfully integrated approach to land and water management. There really isn’t a ’one size fits all’ approach to this work.”


Diversified Waterscapes, Inc. (DWI) (

If you’ve seen the sparkling Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, then you are already familiar with the work of Diversified Waterscapes, Inc., the company that keeps this water feature operational and pristine. Founded in 1973, this southern California-based company is family-owned and emphasizes its family-friendly and personalized approach to serving each client.

With an extensive list of services that includes a lake, pond, and stream maintenance, bio-augmentation, plant installation, consulting, clean-outs, shoreline rehabilitation, pump installation and repair, restoration of aquatic systems, and aeration and fountain installation and service, DWI is well-positioned to respond to the water maintenance and management needs of golf courses.

DWI uses a five-step strategy for effective water conditioning that focuses on:

  • Aeration
  • Filtration
  • Physical maintenance
  • Biological conditions
  • Pest prevention

Arbrux Manufacturing (

Based in Ontario, Canada, Arbrux offers fountains, submersible lighting, pond aerators, and, of course, cold Canadian winters bubblers, and de-icers.

Fountains manufactured by Arbrux are available in .5 1, 2, 3, 5, 7.5, and 10 horsepower models and offer six different spray patterns. A water-cooled and water-lubricated submersible motor powers each stainless steel pump and impeller. The .5 or 1 horsepower vertical mount fountains and the 2 or 3 horsepower horizontal mount fountains are suitable for water depths as shallow as 32 inches, while the 5, 7.5, or 10 horsepower horizontal mount fountains require a minimum water depths of 36 inches. Light kits are an additional option for increasing a fountain’s visual appeal. The light kits include color options (blue, green, red, amber, and clear) and are available in sets of 2, 4, 6 or 8 fixtures for a total of 500-2000 watts of lighting. 250-watt submersible pond lights are also available for placement in shallow water.

To help you battle pond sludge, Arbrux manufactures aerators designed to add oxygen to water, reduce algae, discourage water-breeding insects and reduce odor. Arbrux aerators are powered by stainless steel water-cooled and water-lubricated submersible motors with stainless steel end bells. All models include optional intake screens. Arbrux aerator recommendations:

  • .5 or 1 horsepower models for minimum water depths of 32 inches
  • the 2 horsepower model for minimum water depths of 36 inches
  • the 3 horsepower model for minimum water depths of 40 inches

For northern golf courses and golf courses everywhere that have faced atypically cold winters, de-icers can help prevent winter ice damage. For example, an Arbrux de-icer placed at a 5-foot water depth will keep a 40-foot circle of water ice-free even during severe winter temperatures experienced in parts of the U.S. and Canada.

Aquatic Control (

Since 1966, Aquatic Control has been managing water resources. With a half-century of experience to back up everything this company does, it’s hard to find a water services company with a stronger history or a broader scope of services. From chemicals to bacteria and enzymes, fountains, pond liners, aquatic vegetation management, lake mapping services, fish population management, aeration equipment installation and maintenance, and a range of specialty services, Aquatic Control covers practically every water service need your golf course might ever experience.

The creation of bathymetric maps may not be a service most golf courses typically request, but when you do need lake mapping services, it can be handy to know a company experienced in the process. Aquatic Control partners with Contour Innovations to offer affordable comprehensive lake mapping.

Learning key data for your lake can be extremely helpful for developing your water feature management plan. This information includes facts such as lake depth, percentage, location of plant coverage, and bottom surfaces hardness. Once a baseline is established for your lake, you’ll be well-positioned to evaluate changes that may occur over time.

An overview of the lake mapping process:

  • Predetermined survey tracks are downloaded to a boat-mounted GPS/Sonar unit to ensure that the areas of interest are mapped.
  • The boat operator guides the boat along the survey “tracks” while information is being relayed from the transducer and GPS antenna to a digital storage device.
  • Next, the data is uploaded and analyzed by a water mapping specialist who evaluates your data using custom acoustic algorithms, GIS tools and mathematics to create high-quality layered maps.


Reef Industries, Inc. (

While there are a variety of strategies for designing a pond or water feature to retain water better, including techniques for lining the pond bed with clay or bentonite, no approach is as straightforward as that of using a polyethylene membrane to prevent seepage. To find out more about this option, Golf Course Trades spoke with Jeff Garza, product manager for Reef Industries, Inc.

According to Garza, for nearly sixty years, Reef Industries has been manufacturing polyethylene laminates. These products are used in a variety of agricultural, recreational and industrial applications when there is a need to contain or protect. In addition to products that prevent water penetration, Reef Industries manufactures containments and coverings that can be fire retardant, antimicrobial, and even heat-shrinkable, depending upon the product selected.

The company’s Permalon® division manufactures an engineered, cross-laminated, high-density polyethylene geomembrane that is used by golf courses to line ponds, lagoons and water features. Engineered to minimize water loss and with a high weight to strength ratio, this geosynthetic liner offers resistance to punctures and tears, chemicals and temperature extremes.

With liners available in 20 mil and 30 mil thicknesses, golf courses can choose either stock size liners or custom fabrication. The company produces liners that are factory-fabricated up to one acre in size as well as offering three-dimensional shapes for box and container liners. Although installation services are available, Permalon products are designed and packaged so that golf course crews can handle the installation themselves, if they choose.

Reef Industries provides easy-to-follow instructions to guide you in:

  • Determining the size liner you need
  • Evaluating and preparing your site
  • Planning and scheduling manpower and equipment
  • Uncrating and positioning the product
  • Field extrusion welding
  • Working with Fab Tape/Permatape
  • Finishing the installation and any needed field repairs

As Jeff explained, “We understand that you and your crew may not have installed a pond liner before. We are readily available to answer your questions, talk you through the process and assist you in any way we can. Our field installation guidelines are specific and detailed and include a Field Personnel Handout you can distribute to your staff so that everyone understands the process before you get started.”

A few keys to keep in mind include not trying to install your liner during windy weather, preparing your site thoroughly before you start, and mindfulness during installation. You want to ensure that no one wearing cowboy-style boots, spikes, or high heels walks on the membrane and that everyone pays attention to where they toss tools while working on the project.

In the event, the membrane is damaged during your installation or your site requires the installation to accommodate pipe intrusion, special tapes are available to allow you to either make repairs or to seal and secure your liner around items such as drainage pipes.

No one understands better than you do that golf courses provide valued recreation and solid contributions to local economies while using relatively small amounts of water compared to the water use of many industries and manufacturing processes. Nevertheless, golf is frequently singled out for public scrutiny of its water conservation and management practices, adding one more encumbrance on your daily responsibilities as course superintendent. With the environmental implications of water use so widely discussed by the public and the media today, there has never been a better time to know good companies you can count on to help you manage water issues in ways that satisfy your club members, your budget and even golf’s critics.

Linda Parker has been writing professionally since the 1980s. With clients in finance, sports, technology, change enablement, resorts, and nonprofit global initiatives, Linda helps organizations communicate their stories in meaningful ways to the people they most want to reach. She has authored, ghostwritten or contributed to more than a dozen nonfiction books. You can reach her at:

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