‘Water is for drinking’ – Vigilante sabotages jacuzzis in French tourist resort

A mystery night-time environmental vandal is sabotaging outdoor jacuzzis at holiday lets and second homes in France, amid rising tensions between tourists and locals at the height of a water shortage.

'Water is for drinking' - Vigilante sabotages jacuzzis in French tourist resort
France is in the middle of a historic drought, with water restrictions imposed in many areas. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

At least five outdoor jacuzzis in the area surrounding Lac de Gérardmer in the Vosges area of eastern France, have been punctured by a masked vigilante, who enters the gardens of holiday lets and second homes, and pierces the linings of the spa baths using a drill 

The eco-warrior – who has been spotted on CCTV but covers their face with a turquoise scarf and has yet to be identified – leaves a handwritten message at the scene that reads: “Water is made for drinking! You massacre the Vosges… More seriously, the planet is going bad, wake up!”

The drought situation in the area is so bad that, earlier this month, authorities drew water from the lake, intending to use it to supply the town with water – but it was declared unfit for human consumption after testing.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Water levels at the lake –  the largest natural lake in the Vosges mountain range and a popular destination for tourists – have dropped by 20 centimetres, and it could be pumped for agricultural use for several more weeks if the already long-running drought conditions continue.

One property owner, who was a victim of the eco-vandal told Le Parisien: “We have an individual who, in the middle of the night by breaking and entering, sabotaged the jacuzzi. Always with the same pseudo-ecological message that explains that the planet is going bad and that we must wake up.” 

Mayor Stessy Speissmann condemned the criminal acts, describing them as “inadmissable”, but said it highlighted the problem in a small town that sees its population increase from 8,000 to between 20,000 and 30,000 at peak tourist time.

“We are in the middle of a conflict of use with the problem of water. Some people locally believe that if this resource is lacking, it must be prioritised for residents.” 

A number of residents confirmed the mayor’s perception.

One said: “We, the inhabitants of Gérardmer, are still depriving ourselves of water. And we fill up [their hot tubs] every weekend. It’s ridiculous.”

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France opens up first offshore windfarm – but will more follow?

President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated France’s first offshore windfarm off the coast of Saint-Nazaire on Thursday as he seeks to accelerate renewable energy supply and improve energy security.

France opens up first offshore windfarm - but will more follow?

The 80 turbines will enter full service by the end of the year, and Macron has previously set a goal of about 50 offshore windfarms “providing up to 40 gigawatts” in service by 2050.

Following the belated inauguration of the country’s first offshore windfarm, another at Fécamp is due to start generating power in 2023. Sites in Saint-Brieuc, Fécamp and Courseulles-sur-Mer are set to enter service in 2024.

But France has a long way to go to meet the President’s target, and to catch up with its European neighbours. Before the Saint-Nazaire wind farm (‘parc éolien’ – en français), France had only one floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Le Croisic.

At Thursday’s inauguration event, Macron was to set out the “main lines” of a bill to accelerate France’s renewable energy programme, which will be presented to the Council of Ministers on Monday, September 26th.

READ ALSO France generates electricity from offshore wind farm for the first time

There is no doubt that renewable energy production in France is accelerating. On top of the 80 offshore turbines at Saint-Nazaire, just under 9,000 onshore turbines are currently producing electricity in France – eight years ago, around half that number of land-based turbines were operational. 

The first turbines in France were only installed in the 1990s – by which time countries like Germany and Denmark already had large-scale operations in place. 

More turbines would be in operation now in France, but for the lengthy planning process and appeals against projects, which have delayed construction for several years.

Hauts-de-France and Grand-Est, account for 50 percent of the wind-produced power in France. Île-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, and Corsica lag behind the other regions.

READ MORE: Energy shortages: What’s the problem with France’s nuclear industry?

In 2020, wind produced just eight percent of its electricity from wind, behind hydroelectric stations, while nuclear power generated nearly 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

Wind power accounted for 20 percent of electricity generation in Germany and Spain, while the UK was at 30 percent in 2020, Portugal produced 40 percent, and Denmark’s windfarms met 60 percent of the country’s electricity needs.