Golf courses abstracting billions of litres of water

Billions of litres of water are being removed from rivers and aquifers by golf companies each year, ENDS’ analysis of abstraction licences has revealed.

Environment Agency (EA) data obtained via a Freedom of Information request  shows that despite the squeeze on water resources, the Environment Agency is permitting organisations to abstract 13.26 billion litres of water every year just to keep golf courses green.

The river Avon catchment in Warwickshire is affected the most, with 1.52 billion litres of water licensed to be taken out of its water bodies by golf courses. 

The EA allows golf companies to abstract up to 1.47 billion litres a year from the river Colne catchment, despite it being home to many rare and struggling chalk streams. The amount licensed makes it the second most abstracted catchment for golf after the Avon. 

This is despite EA chief executive Sir James Bevan earlier this year warning  that a “jaws of death” scenario – the time when demand for water exceeds supply – is close at hand. 

In addition, last month ENDS revealed that the agency has licensed companies to take almost 18 billion litres of water out of the environment for bottling and selling every year. 

According to HM Revenue and Customs figures, the amount of bottled water exported out of the country also shot up by more than half (57%) between 2010 and 2018 and sales of bottled water rose by 7% between 2017 and 2018. 

Michael Roberts, the chief executive of Water UK, said the statistics “remind us of the challenge we have from our perspective in giving people other options to stay hydrated”. 


Related ENDS Compliance Content

  • EU Directive 2000/60/EC: Establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy [Water Framework Directive]

    EU Directive 2000/60/EC: Establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy [Water Framework Directive]

    In force/
    10 Nov 2014


    31/10/2014 Amending EU Directive (2014/101/EU) published.

    Compliance Dates

    22/12/2015 All ground and surface waters to reach good status by 22/12/2015, 22/12/2020 The cessation or phasing out of discharges, emissions or losses of priority hazardous substances, 22/12/2003 Transposition deadline is 22/12/2003, 22/12/2009 Water Basin Management Plans must be prepared for each river basin district





    EU OJ (Official Journal of the European Union)

    Affected Sectors

    Cross-sector Water

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