Waterproofing of lakes in Golf Courses

The lakes are a common element to almost every golf course. In the design of a golf course there are usually one or more lakes, most of which are artificially created. But what do they serve and how do they stand?


Functions of lakes on golf courses

In addition to the scenic beauty, the lakes on the golf courses fulfill two important functions:


  • Are considered as obstacles to play;
  • They are, in most cases, the most economical and efficient solution for the compensation and safety reservoir for irrigation – the transformation of artificial lakes into reservoirs only entails the increase of costs related to the increase of depth and pumping structures. To the advantages of this solution, it adds the fact that the lakes are integrated in the landscape of the fields, thus benefiting the aesthetic component.


Ecological Balance

The recognition of the type of lake, depending on its origin (artificial or natural), its age and its morphology and morphometry, will allow to evaluate the conditions of light, temperature, nutrients and oxygen that coexist in it and that interfere in a decisive way in the its dynamics and ecological balance.


In this way, it will be possible to predict the type of problems that may arise and to plan preventive management solutions and / or adequate rehabilitation measures.


In a body of water in the process of natural balance, as nutrients enter the ecosystem they are metabolized by aerobic bacteria, algae and aquatic plants. This metabolic activity is guaranteed by the dissolved oxygen normally present in the water, which is the result of photosynthesis, mechanical wind, rain and wave action.


However, this balance can easily disappear if there is a combination of factors, leading to an oxygen deficiency needed to keep this process healthy. We talk about factors such as:


  • Excessive intake or accumulation of nutrients;
  • Decrease of dissolved oxygen contents – due to lack of sun and decrease of the photosynthetic process or successive nights of high heat;
  • Excessive water temperature;
  • Mortality in fish and other aquatic organisms.

Common problems in lakes

The causes of problems in lakes are related to the various factors mentioned above – sunlight, thermal stratification and nutrients. These factors are usually linked together.


A balanced aquatic ecosystem should have reduced populations of algae and weeds, as well as balanced nutrient levels. This whole balanced food chain has to be supported by sufficient oxygen levels. Water quality is the determining factor for lake management.


For those in charge of the management of the golf course, it is very important to combine the water quality of the lakes with the possibility of using it for lawn irrigation – since it is one of the main functions of the lakes.



The importance of preventive management


As is the case in most situations, the costs of corrective action are also increasing here as action is delayed and the ecological imbalance worsens. It is essential, therefore, that golf course managers bet on preventive measures.


As most of the lakes present on golf courses are artificially created, the design phase is decisive and the responsible person should consider the biological aspects and how these can be influenced by the characteristics of the lake. Choosing the right size, for example, can help maintain good water quality, as well as avoid or mitigate future management problems as the body of water ages.


Recommendations for prevention of problems in lakes:

  • Depth of the lake – The minimum depth should be 3 m.
  • Morphometry – Peninsulas or arms of earth must be avoided.
  • Morphology – Lakesides and coastal areas should have the size and vegetation required to function as leachate and nutrient retention areas.
  • Electricity – It is advisable, in the construction phase of the golf course / lake, to provide for the installation of piping for conducting power cables.
  • Waterproofing of the bottom of the lake – It is necessary to evaluate if the existing soil type allows the accumulation of water, or even if the drainage of the waters of the future lake can affect underground aquifers.

In these situations, the solution applied by Prudêncio – TPO Koster membrane – will allow an easier future management of the lake by the decrease:

  • of the influence of sediments on water quality;
  • of the probability of developing background plants;
  • of the need of funds cleaning.


Precautions in Waterproofing of lakes

Some precautions should be considered in the application of membranes, in particular the following:


  • Verify the levels of underground aquifers;
  • To verify if the implantation of the lake is being done in lands with high rate of organic decomposition;
  • In view of the above, install adequate drainage systems under the membrane to prevent fluctuation and displacement of the membrane or the formation of gas pockets;
  • The support bed of the membrane must not be irregular, nor with tips or edges that cause ruptures;
  • The application of the diaphragm must be carried out by specialized and certified professionals.



The artificial or natural water bodies integrated in golf courses are an interdisciplinary challenge for those in charge, from the design phase to the maintenance phase, through implementation.


Good preventive practices are a responsibility that is reflected at several levels:


  • Economic-social  the maintenance of healthy green spaces, well treated and integrated in the natural landscape, is one of the keys to the success of this tourist activity – Golf Courses are one of the main tourist activities of Portugal.
  • Environmental – the significant water needs, not only for irrigation supply, but also for the creation of effective water plans, imposes, as a result of their scarcity, measures to reuse them, to protect against eutrophication and protection of groundwater against infiltration.
  • Management of the activity – strict management of the water available will allow more cost-effective short-term cost-benefit relationships and in the medium / long term sustainability of the activity, particularly in areas under water stress such as the Algarve.

In the management of lakes it is important to retain the following fundamental aspects:


1) Each lake is a unique ecosystem, with its own characteristics that it is necessary to evaluate and to know.


2) Good management passes through the balance between temperature, nutrients, oxygen and water circulation.


3) Using various preventive measures, such as waterproofing, in a complementary and integrated way, is the best way to avoid problems.


4) The application of corrective measures should always be considered as a last resort.



Looking for the best solutions for the waterproofing of golf course lakes? Contact us now and ask for a estimate.


Article based on the “Manual of Good Environmental Practices for Golf Courses” of the Portuguese Environment Agency.

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