The war of words between climate-change activists and drought-hit farmers intent on protecting their livelihoods has taken a new turn in France. Supporters of Bassines Non Merci, a group opposed to the spread of massive irrigation ponds built by agricultural coops to provide their members with water during the summer months, have gone on the offensive.

As many as 5,000 protesters, most of them city dwellers in their late-teens and twenties, descended last Saturday on the village of Sainte-Solines, between La Rochelle and Poitiers, in the department of Deux-Sevres, intent on dismantling a system of pipes and pumps used to draw water from deep underground that is then stored in a network of specially constructed reservoirs.