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France drought: climate protesters fill golf course holes with plants

The Limoges activists followed the example of their peers in Toulouse in opposing the fact that courses can often water their greens despite drought restrictions

Climate activists in Limoges have filled golf course holes with plants in protest against the facilities’ partial exemption from drought restrictions Pic: AboutLife / Shutterstock

Environmental activists in Limoges have filled golf course holes with “thirsty” plants in protest against the facilities’ partial exemption from drought restrictions. 

Extinction Rebellion Limoges targeted the Porcelaine and Saint-Lazare courses, its plants accompanied by a poster with the words “Rendez l’eau” (Give back the water).

This comes days after Extinction Rebellion and Action Kirikou activists in Toulouse cemented up holes at two golf courses around the city, leaving a sign reading: “This hole drinks 277,000 litres of water a day. Do you drink that much? #StopGolf”.

Read more: French golf course holes cemented over by climate activists

After an unusually dry winter and spring and a very hot summer, the whole of metropolitan France is currently under drought warnings or restrictions of some sort.

Read more: Drought map update: See the French departments with water restrictions

These come in four stages: ‘vigilance’, ‘alerte’, ‘alerte renforcée’ and ‘crise’. At alerte level, residents must begin reducing their water consumption, and from alerte renforcée non-essential usages are strictly limited or banned. 

Read more: Vigilance, alert, crisis: what France’s four drought warnings mean

The exact nature of the restrictions are decided by individual prefectures, so vary by department, but often golf courses are allowed to continue watering their greens at least even at the higher restriction levels.

Limoges is located in Haute-Vienne, the whole of which is under crisis level drought alert. This means that practices such as filling private swimming pools and washing cars are completely banned.

Watering is still permitted at night at the Porcelaine and Saint-Lazare golf courses, as long as they use a rainwater collection system. 

Extinction Rebellion Limoges stated that it put the plants in the golfing holes to “raise awareness among golfers and course owners about the indecency of this situation,” and to “demand a complete stop to watering golf courses, greens included. 

“We question the priority given to water usage, on the position and legitimacy of leisure [in the ranking]: we need to make a link between climate and social justice because the two are the same thing. 

“We are not asking for sports practices in themselves to be thrown into question, but rather the resources put into them and the energy usage which is no longer sustainable nowadays, even outside of heatwave periods.”

The vice president of the Porcelaine course said: “Obviously we are working in conjunction with the prefecture; we are closely following the restrictions, and this is why we are only watering the green. 

“The fairways cover 75 hectares, the greens less than one hectare, so we are consuming 100 cubic metres of water each day.”

He added that the course uses rain and run-off water collection systems.

Extinction Rebellion’s plants have now been removed from the golf holes. 

Golf course uses recycled water for its grass 

Another golf course in Pornic (Loire-Atlantique) is still watering its grass despite restrictions, because of an ecological system it developed years ago. 

When the course was extended in 1992, its director Richard Chicot decided to introduce a water recycling system, meaning that its sprinklers no longer use drinking water.

There are five kilometres of pipes transporting water from its purifying plant to the holes, and a measuring system which makes sure that the land is only watered between 22:00 and 06:00.

In this way, the course “does not waste water,” Mr Chicot said. “We use exactly what we need; there is no loss and no pollution. And all the drains lead to the pumping tank,” which takes the water back up to the purification system.

Loire-Atlantique is largely under a crisis-level drought alert, meaning that watering golf courses is generally banned, but the use of recycled water enables the Pornic facility to get round these rules. 

Related articles 

Water conflicts multiply in France as drought restrictions extended

Rainwater, wells: eight questions about water restrictions in France

France drought: can public car washes stay open despite restrictions?

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