the watering of golf courses is controversial

Several left-wing elected officials have called for changes to the regulations, which allow golf courses to continue to water their greens, even at the highest level of drought alert.

While France is going through an episode of drought described as “historic” by the government, golf courses are in the sights of certain elected officials on the left. Despite the lack of water, most are indeed allowed to continue to water their land. A situation denounced in particular by the ecological mayor of Grenoble Éric Piolle. “Why can we water the golf greens when everyone is short of water? You could say it doesn’t make much sense“, Recently underlined the elected green on BFMTV, who sent a letter to the Secretary of State in charge of Ecology Bérangère Couillard.

In a widely relayed tweet, the LFI-Nupes deputy from Bouches-du-Rhône, Hendrik Davi, also proposed to ban the watering of golf courses. “In times of drought, it is forbidden to fill the swimming pools, but the golf courses must only reduce their consumption by 20% and water between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. An 18-hole course needs 5,000 m3/day, or the consumption of 12,000 inhabitants. What if we banned them too?“, he wrote. “57 departments are under water restrictions. More than 100 municipalities find themselves deprived of drinking water. During this time, derogations are taken to allow wealthy people to play golf. It’s really time to stop messing around at full blast“, jumped Sunday the socialist senator of the French from abroad Yan Chantrel on Twitter.

If some criticize thedeductions» granted to golf courses, their watering in times of drought is in fact no exception. A national framework agreement was signed in 2019 between the French Golf Federation and the Ministries of Ecological Transition, Sports and Agriculture, which provides for progressive measures to limit the use of water, depending on four levels of restriction (vigilance, alert, heightened alert, crisis). Even on the threshold of a crisis – which today concerns 66 departments – the greens, that is to say the areas where the holes are located, can continue to be watered, between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., except in the event of shortage of drinking water. But the watering must bereduced to what is strictly necessary», and cannot represent more than 30% of the usual volumes.

SEE ALSO – Drought: “There are few prospects for improvement before August 15”, warns Vincent Bordenave

“1 to 2%” of the surface of the watered land

The measures recommended in this national framework agreement are at least those that must be contained in the framework orders issued at local level by the prefects. “The prefects can provide for more restrictive measures if they consider that a shortage of drinking water is to be feared, or that local conditions so require.“, we emphasize to the Golf Federation. Thereby, “around twenty departments sometimes go so far as to purely and simply prohibit the watering of golf courses in the event of drought in their framework decreesays Maximilien Lambert, environmental project manager at the FFGolf. This is the case, for example, of Loire-Atlantique or Ille-et-Vilaine. Today, due to the drought,39 golf courses in France cannot be watered at all“, counts the president of the federation Pascal Grizot.

In some of the territories where the regulations are the strictest, a request for exemption can however be filed by the golf courses so that they can water. “But in the municipalities where the inhabitants are supplied with water by cisterns, the federation asks the golf courses not to make a request for exemption», Specifies Maximilien Lambert. “We don’t want to compete with the agricultural sector either.», adds Pascal Grizot.

As for the golf authorities, it is also emphasized that only a very small part of the land remains watered in the event of drought. “Only the greens, essential to the survival of the course, are then watered. They represent only 1 to 2% of the total surface of the golf course“, we explain to the federation, which therefore indicates that “the minimum need for the survival of the greens of an 18-hole golf course in high heat is 100 to 120 m3 per day“. Because in total, the federation estimates that the national average annual water consumption of an 18-hole golf course is 50,000 m3 per year. A number “very far“Of those put forward by LFI deputy Hendrik Davi, points out the FFGolf. The actual annual consumption of a golf course is indeed “36.5 timeslower, it is pointed out.

“We support golf courses so that they invest sustainably in rational water management. »

Maximilien Lambert, environmental project manager at the French Golf Federation

This represents the annual consumption of approximately 950 people. Even if this is not negligible, it remains extremely limited compared, for example, to the needs of agriculture (3.4 billion m3 of water consumed each year, ie 45% of total consumption in France). At the FFGolf, it is specified that the data of Hendrik Davi are taken from a senatorial report dated 2002, whose figures date from 1992 and come only from sites within the scope of the Rhône Méditerranée Corse water agency.

SEE ALSO – What is the difference between “meteorological drought”, “soil drought” and “groundwater drought”?

15,000 jobs at stake according to the federation

Furthermore, if “90% of golf courses use water unfit for human consumption», affirms Maximilien Lambert, progress remains to be made on the origin of the irrigation water. As the federation concedes,only 20% of golf courses benefit from supplies that can be considered “sustainable”: rainwater collected and stored in reserves, raw water from large irrigation canals, water recycled by treatment plants“. A subject on which the federation says it is working. “We accompany the golf courses so that they invest sustainably for a reasoned water management. 15 million euros of projects have been submitted to the water agencies», explains Maximilian Lambert.

The issue of water is sizeable, according to the authority. “Failure to have watering results in the death of the green“, Reports the federal spokesperson. Which leads to “a closure of the structure and an operating loss for 6 months until the spring of the following year“, Reports the federation, which puts forward economic arguments. “The sector that we defend represents more than 1.5 billion euros in turnover in France and provides 15,000 jobs, including 7,500 direct jobs in the field.“, she explains. Pascal Grizot says despite everything “understand that it may shock citizens that golf courses are watered” while some French people can no longer water their garden or fill their swimming pool. “But we do it with great discernment, and very significant efforts are made to limit consumption.»

SEE ALSO – In a “historic” context of drought, Christophe Béchu gives “priority to drinking water”


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