The controversy swelled last week. As drought crushes the entire country, golf courses have been accused of taking advantage of preferential treatment and not adhering to certain water restrictions, much to the delight of their often wealthy practitioners.
Elected officials on the left have made this a symbolic model of environmental injustice. Grenoble’s mayor, Eric Biol, was the first to paint. On July 30, he regretted BFM Television that “ The practices of the wealthy are protected as we advocate sobriety. When we can’t water anything anywhere, everyone is running out of water and our lawns are yellow, why can we still water golf greens? ? » The position was taken by deputies from La France Insoumise. against this “ Unacceptable class decision »And the Manuel Bombard called to “ Water fair share plan ».
- Strasbourg golf course, as seen from a drone. Unsplash / Adrienguh
in Tweet Following this, another France Insoumise deputy, Hendrik Duffy, pointed out the discrepancy between the types of deprivation required of individuals and those that apply to this leisure activity. “ Filling swimming pools, washing your car, and watering your vegetable garden is prohibited, but golf courses should reduce their consumption. The 18-hole stadium needs 5,000 cubic meters per day, or the consumption of 12,000 people. » In 2021, the French Golf Federation acquired 436,846 licensees, playing in more than 700 buildings.
Its estimate is based on a Senate report published in 2002. At that time, according to these data, the total water consumption on all golf courses was 36 million cubic meters, which is equivalent to the annual water consumption of a city. 500,000 people like Lyon. A study published by the French Golf Association assessed this consumption at 29 million cubic meters of water in 2010. A smaller amount, yet far from insignificant.
Watering the vegetables is still possible
“ The situation is actually very symbolic », admits Antoine Gatier from the French natural environment. But we have to be careful of cartoons, he said Reporter. According to the lawyer, “ Golf courses, like other economic or tourist activities, are not exempt from restrictive measures ».
Golf courses must already respect a legal framework, depending on the severity level of the drought: alert, alert, high alert or crisis phase. At the alarm threshold, daytime watering is prohibited, and the weekly consumption should be reduced by 15 to 30 The percentage of water withdrawals must be recorded each week in the logs, and sets out a written systematic guide by the Ministry of Environmental Transformation. In high alert, water consumption is reduced by at least 60 %, watering is prohibited except on feeders and on vegetables (The grassy areas near the holes have been mowed.) Finally, in the so-called crisis stage, there is a ban on watering. Greens can be at night, “ By irrigation to what is absolutely necessary ».
- Hazard warning sign at Embrun mini-golf in July 2020. CC0 1.0 / Benoit Pryor / Wikimedia Commons
Today in France, 62 departments are classified in a state of crisis. So watering golf courses remains possible and justified by the sector in the name of keeping employment and keeping business. “ Without water, the green dies in three days and takes three months to grow. But a track without green is like a skating rink without ice, it must be closed », warns France Info, Gerard Rogier of the French Golf Federation. Ultimately, according to professionals, the activity of 700 golf courses and 15,000 jobs will be threatened in France.
This job blackmail can be effective. Because restriction measures depend to a large extent on provincial orders taken at the local level. It is based above all on the goodwill of the governor. Gold, as Antoine Gattier reminds us “ The influence of nepotism can undermine these judgments: economic actors and industries closest to the ruler are often able to make their voices heard and obtain exceptions. For a long time, the governor was more interested in economic activity than in the preservation of water resources. » The France Nature Environment says it is very keen on this “ These privileges are possible » And ready to challenge them in court.
Wastewater and pesticides
Originally, preserving greens in times of drought stemmed from an agreement in 2019 between the Ministry of Environmental Transformation and the French Golf Federation. In exchange for this exception, golf course owners have committed to implementing the measures “ Raising awareness and preserving biodiversity » As well as to reduce water consumption and the environmental impact of its exercise. Some, for example, began to irrigate with sewage.
At this point, much remains to be done, as Antoine Gatier asserts: “ Golf is not a sustainable activity, this leisure makes the soil and pollutes the environment greatly. » According to a recent study, 18 kg of pesticides are sprayed per hectare annually. Compare to 2.5 kg used in agriculture. In golf, only the greens are green.