Drought: 26 departments at high risk this summer in France

The last few weeks may have seemed very rainy to Ile-de-France residents, they have not changed the situation. With the exception of the south of the Paris basin, the groundwater level is stable or slightly lower than last year. And, in certain corners of the center and south of the basin, the recharge recorded since last autumn remains very low or even non-existent, the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM) said on Wednesday.

At this time of year, plants pump most of the water. “An April rain is a rain that goes for the vegetation, not for the reserves”, insisted the Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Christophe Béchu, after a new meeting of the Hydrological Anticipation and Monitoring Committee. At the national level, “we have not caught up with the winter drought which had itself aggravated the situation in the summer of 2022”.

Historically low levels in the south

“It’s worrying for the future”, recognizes Christophe Poinssot, the interim CEO of BRGM. “68% of the water tables are at low to very very low levels, where last year, we were at 58%”, he indicates. This ten-point shift, “which is not anecdotal”, is mainly done on the water tables which are at a very low level: they are 20% this year, against 8% in 2022.

In the deep south – the Mediterranean rim and the Rhone corridor – territories “are already in crisis”, warns Christophe Béchu. The aquifers of Roussillon “experience an unprecedented situation” with areas that display “historically low” levels. And, the observation is the same for the layers of Provence and the Côte d’Azur.

Source: Ministry of Ecological Transition

As a result, drought still threatens. The government estimates that 26 departments face a “very probable” risk of drought by the end of the summer, especially in the South-East and the Paris basin, and 45 at a “probable” risk.

Twenty departments already have restrictions on the use of water on all or part of their territory, according to the Propluvia site. Five of them are already at the maximum stage of “crisis”: almost all of the Pyrénées-Orientales and some areas of Var, Gard, Bouches-du-Rhône and Loiret.

The government has therefore decided to update its “drought guide” on the restrictions to be implemented. He sent it this Wednesday to all the prefects. The last version dated from June 2021, the new one is more than 40 pages. It recalls in particular what must happen in terms of derogations for specific cases, for which the Ministry of Ecological Transition now requires an obligation to publish. “A derogation must be explained and justified, we are moving towards a genization of practices”, notes Christophe Béchu.

There is also an obligation to bring together “much earlier the authorities to discuss potential restrictions and the dates on which they are put in place. On the other hand, there is no global ban for golf courses.

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