DROUGHT FRANCE. More than sixty departments are affected by drought alerts in France. As a heat episode is looming over the country, the use of water is becoming a critical problem in several regions. We take stock of the restrictions already in force.

[Updated July 10, 2023 4:11 p.m.] Due to the low rainfall expected in the first half of July, many prefectures in France have issued decrees to institute restrictions on the use of drinking water to prevent any possible crisis. The month of June had however been marked by a level of excess rain over most of the territory, but the results of the winter season are still being felt.

At the beginning of July, 65 departments are affected by water restrictions, of which 13 are in a crisis situation, the highest level of alert. The Pyrénées-Orientales, the Var, the Loire-Atlantique, the Vienne, the Oise and a large part of the departments of the Centre-Val de Loire are in a critical situation while the country has not yet experienced a major episode. of heat wave.

The rains and thunderstorms in June helped to counter the surface dryness in places, but were not enough to fill the water tables. More than half of the groundwater reserves were in deficit during the first days of July according to drought info data. A slight improvement compared to spring, but which will not save the country from drought and water restrictions this summer. The Weather Channel, however, indicates that with frequent thunderstorms expected during the season including in the southeast, “the situation could be a little less critical than last year regarding surface dryness” despite temperatures above normal for 2°C.

But, can the rains that have fallen in France since the beginning of May provide reassurance about the future drought? “What happens on the surface does not necessarily have a link with what happens in depth”, explains Serge Zaka, agroclimatologist, interviewed by Le Figaro. Vegetation, emerging from hibernation, essentially captures the spring rains. The abundant rains in May nourished the vegetation, but also strengthened surface watercourses. They’re good news since they’ll save you from having to tap groundwater early, but they come too late to recharge them. So the drought will once again weigh on the daily lives of a large majority of French departments.

Thursday, May 11, the Pyrénées-Orientales were classified almost entirely at the crisis alert level for drought. In this department, it is now forbidden to carry out non-priority samples, including agricultural ones. In this context of historic drought, those who do not comply with this ban are liable to fines of up to 1,500 euros for individuals and 7,500 euros for companies. Other French departments are affected by restrictions.

As of July 10, 2023, drought alerts concern several French departments. But the vigilance thresholds are multiplying throughout the country. Here are the most affected sectors:

What is the drought map of France?

Propluvia is the institute of the Ministry of Ecological Transition responsible for monitoring water levels and the internet platform that allows direct consultation of water restriction orders. The site includes a scalable map to view the areas affected by these prefectural decrees. Here is the map as of July 10, 2023.

There are four main levels of drought vigilance and all of them result in the implementation of specific measures.

A national geological service, the BRGM is the benchmark public establishment in the applications of Earth sciences to manage the resources and risks of the soil and subsoil with a view to sustainable development. Here is their forecast map of the risk of drought on groundwater in 2023.

Individuals have a role to play in limiting drought, in particular through small everyday gestures summarized by the website of the Ministry of Ecological Transition:

If these actions to adopt are good for the planet, they are also good for the bank account, while the bill should increase soon, given the price of water. A larger increase should also weigh on the most consuming households at the top, as Emmanuel Macron announced.