Global Edition

Climate activists attack golf clubs in France over water restrictions 

11.46am 15th August 2022 - Course Development

Climate activists affiliated with Extinction Rebellion have targeted golf courses in southern France, filling holes with concrete in protest over exemptions from water restrictions during one of the worst droughts on record.

France has told residents to avoid non-essential water usage like car-washing and watering gardens. However, activists complain that golf courses are allowed to continue watering greens. 

The protest action took place at the Vieille-Toulouse club and also at the Garonne des Sept Deniers course.

Defending their exemption from the water restrictions, Gerard Rougier of the French Golf Federation told the France Info news website: “A golf course without a green is like an ice-rink without ice.”

Extinction Rebellion Toulouse posted a photograph on Twitter apparently showing a golf hole filled with cement and a sign saying “This hole is drinking 277,000 litres. Do you drink that much? #Stop Golf”.

A petition aimed at scrapping the exemption enjoyed by French golf courses during drought said: “Economic madness takes precedence over ecological reason.”

Water bans are enforced at the discretion of regional officials and, so far, only Ille-et-Villaine in western France had banned the watering of golf courses.

France had been one of the hardest hit by the hot and dry conditions across Europe with firefighters currently battling a monster blaze in forests in the southwest France.

Meanwhile, authorities in Portugal, which has suffered a similar drought conditions this summer, and has been hit by dozens of wildfires, has told golf club operators that they cannot rely on exemptions to watering bans in the future, and must find other ways to irrigate and water their courses without drawing on public water resources.

Sophisticated irrigation systems have resulted in a 30% reduction in water usage on golf courses over the last 15 years

Rebutting accusations that golf was a major cause of water shortages in the country, Portuguese Golf Federation President Miguel Franco de Sousa, said “The overwhelming majority golf courses, particularly in the Algarve, where the problem of lack of water is greater, have highly modern irrigation systems which enable them not to waste a single drop of water that is not absolutely necessary. 

“What we ask is that the state doesn’t abdicate its responsibilities and doesn’t look to find scapegoats when there’s a lack of water. Golf courses are not the bogeymen when it comes to water use and they do not leave the country in a drought. Water losses in the public supply networks are enough to irrigate 400 to 500 golf courses.

“Golf courses in the Algarve use only 6.4% of the total water consumed in the region. The sector that consumes the most water is agriculture – with 57%, followed by urban consumption, which is 28%.”

He added: “Golf represents around 13% of the gross added value in the Algarve – compared to just 3% from agriculture. Golf provides €500m of direct impact on the region’s economy, and also generates around 17,000 jobs, which are maintained throughout the year, thanks to the entire golf ecosystem, and it directly employs 2,000 people.”

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