Wave Pools: Environmental Concerns Outweigh Their Value

15/06/20

Artificial surfing wave pools are growing in popularity across the world and have the potential to deeply impact surfing. Though many arguments exist for their recreational benefits, Surfrider Foundation Europe, a nonprofit created by surfers, takes the stance that the environmental concerns outweigh their value. 

Surfrider Europe does not support artificial surfing wave pool projects

Mostly destined for economic and recreational purposes, the relevancy of these projects can be questioned to a great extent, and even more so when their location is close to the ocean, next to natural waves. Indeed the argument can be made about the value of such equipment for the training or improvement of surfing, but the recreational benefits do not outweigh the environmental impacts.

The main reasons that led us to take this position are:

  1. Their construction implies land artificialization (pool, parking, roads) on natural or agricultural areas. This artificialization contributes to habitat destruction and adds to the decline of biodiversity. The fight against land artificialization and impermeability has become a priority for the French government since 2018, aiming to limit the loss of natural spaces -agricultural and forest areas - to reach the objective of net-zero artificialization.
  2. Operating them implies a huge water consumption, with pools containing anywhere from 25 to 35.000m3 (equal to 10 to 14 Olympic pools), it is unnecessary and irresponsible to build these operations in the current context of climate change where water availability is on high alerts, like in Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. It also needs to be reminded that Adour-Garonne and Loire-Bretagne bays' adaptation plans clearly state the significance of finding a good balance between water usage and resources, enhancing permeable spaces, and reinforcing aquatic ecosystem resilience.
  3. Operating them implies the need for a large quantity of energy. Using the American Wave Machine technology, the electrical consumption of Waco’s waves generator in Texas reaches 450kW (equal to 800 french households average electricity consumption). In the framework of energetic transition and renewable energy development, consuming less energy is a priority for our society.

Sobriety and ecosystem preservation

Experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), publish daily warnings on the disastrous effect of human activities on ecosystems (hydric deficit, the decline in biodiversity, atmosphere and ocean warming). Weakening ecosystems increase human society's vulnerability to rising natural risks, becoming more intense and more frequent in the coming years characterized by extreme meteorological phenomenons, such as storms or heatwaves.

A healthy ecosystem will be our best chance to adapt to climate change. Yet, land artificialization projects and water resource consumption, such as with artificial wave pools, increase the vulnerability of ecosystems to the effects of climate change. Because of the environmental concerns, if a wave pool project were proposed along the European coastline where Surfrider Europe actively fights coastal development projects, the NGO pledges to raise a case against it. 

Now is not a time for excess consumption, economic growth-seeking, or projects disconnected from the environmental issues we are facing today. The reality of climate change should force us to rethink our growth models to reduce natural resource consumption and reconcile our relationship with nature. 

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