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Is the watering of golf greens really allowed despite water consumption restrictions?

France is on a dry diet but golfers can continue to push their balls on a well-watered green. While water restrictions are on the increase in France, several elected officials from the Nupes (New People’s, Ecological and Social Union) denounce a double standard in the government’s anti-drought directives: “IIt 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. says on Twitter Hendrik Davi, LFI MP for Marseille.

On BFM, Eric Piolle clarifies his criticism of government measures. “In the anti-drought decrees, there is an exemption to allow the greens to be watered”, declares the chosen one. Does the mayor of Grenoble (Isère) say true or “fake”?

Contacted by franceinfo, the Ministry of Ecological Transition recalls that “golf courses are not exempt from restrictions” but does not deny the existence of less severe water consumption reduction instructions for the greens, that is to say the area with the shortest grass on the course.ituated around the hole. These measures are described in a guide published by the ministry in June (PDF) and fixing, according to the level of alert, the perimeter of authorized water-consuming activities.

Water use restriction measures for watering golf courses, published in June 2022 by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.  (Ministry of Ecological Transition)

At the first level, the “vigilance” threshold, only raising the awareness of golf course operators to water savings is recommended. At the second level, the “alert” level, watering is prohibited from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the aim of reducing water consumption by 15 to 30%. For the next threshold, “enhanced alert”, a reduction in volumes consumed by at least 60% is required as well as a ban on watering the fairways, in other words the area of ​​the ground located between the tee where the first shot and the green, the expanse of grass at the end of the course where the golf hole is located.

Finally, at the maximum alert level, the “crisis” threshold, only the watering of the greens is authorized for a water consumption which cannot represent more than 30% of the volumes of water usually used. The Ministry for the Ecological Transition specifies, however, that in the event of imperative, “the prefects are quite willing to ban watering [des greens] if it seems necessary to them”.

Golf courses therefore benefit from more favorable water use conditions than other activities. At the “crisis” level, it is still possible to water the greens but prohibited, for example, to fill a private swimming pool or, for farmers, to irrigate crops.

“There is a real economic stake” to justify such an exemption, declares to franceinfo Rémy Dorbeau, president of the French Association of golf course maintenance staff (Agref). “Without water, a green dies in three days and it takes three months to regrow it. However, a course without a green is like an ice rink without ice, it will have to close”, warns Gérard Rougier, Director Territories Environment and Equipment at the French Golf Federation. The activity of “700 golf courses employing 15,000 people in France” would then be threatened, insists the director.

>> Drought: “If we have no more water, we have no more work”, the golf courses defend their derogations to water part of the courses

An economic impact that the Ministry of Ecological Transition also highlights: “Golf courses are an economic and tourist activity. A closed golf course means dozens of unemployed employees and a consequent tourist loss for the territory.”

“If there is a problem [d’emploi]the State could subsidize the cessation of [golfs] by the establishment of partial unemployment, reacts to franceinfo Hendrik Davi. But we will never do anything on the environmental level if you blackmail the job. I worked on the IPCC scenarios: when there is no more water for agriculture, there will be no more for golf”.

“According to a Senate report, the total consumption of all golf courses in 2002 represented the equivalent of the annual consumption of a city of 500,000 inhabitants (36 million cubic meters), it is not negligible”, adds the deputy. A study published by the French Golf Federation (PDF) estimates, for its part, this consumption at 29 million cubic meters of water in 2010. “Global warming is violent in its effects, recognizes Gérard Rougier, from Agref, but efforts have since been made in major golf courses with a drop in water consumption of around 30%.

For Guillaume Martin, energy-climate-mobility engineer interviewed by Mariannethe debate around the watering of greens is symptomatic of a society that “has not realized the extent of global warming. S“To say that we will potentially pay more for our food because of the droughts and their impact on the agricultural sector, and that at the same time, we preferred to play golf… Of course, that raises questions”, judge the engineer.

If the derogation from which the watering of golf greens benefits can be justified by the preservation of employment, the maintenance and the acceptability, in the long term, of such a measure in the face of climate change remain in question.

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