Summer is going to be long this year in Descartes, a small town in Indre-et-Loire. The decision to close the municipal swimming pool leaves the population with a bitter taste, a mixture of anger and frustration. Anger at not having had a say; frustration of being deprived of the most precious element in hot weather: water. As the school holidays begin, the inhabitants have the feeling of being relieved of a public service. The abolition of the post office or a school cl would not have produced greater disillusionment in this rural town of 3,300 inhabitants.
Usually open from May to August, the “aquatic area” – its official name – was the pride of Descartes, with its five pools, including one of 25 meters, its ten-seater jacuzzi, its two slides, its covered paddling pool (closed due to non-compliant ventilation), its breathtaking view of the Creuse valley, its straw parasols giving the site an exotic beach feel… The emotion linked to its closure is the same everywhere where public swimming pools have had to lower their curtain, temporarily or permanently, in recent months. Knowing their number is difficult, for lack of an official review.
The only certainty: the movement has intensified since the worsening of the energy crisis in the fall of 2022. A public service delegate company (Vert Marine) had then closed around thirty nautical centers, imitated by many communities. Where the basins had remained open, the water and ambient air temperatures had to be lowered in order to reduce the gas and electricity bill.
Soaring prices are not enough to explain the phenomenon. Water restrictions, ordered by the prefectures in departments suffering from water stress (situation where water resources are lower than demand), are another factor.
Just like the shortage of lifeguards, without whom no activity in the pool is possible – thus, 5,000 graduates would be lacking, according to the lifeguard unions. Finally, the obsolescence of many infrastructures dating from the 1960s and 1970s sometimes legitimizes difficult decisions to be made. “You don’t close a swimming pool with joy of heart”insists Bruno Méreau, the mayor (without label) of Descartes.
Called to be confirmed if the energy and climate crises worsen, the trend affects living areas unequally. Rurality should pay a high price, especially the geographically isolated cantons without resources. Located one hour from Tours and twenty-five minutes from Châtellerault, the birthplace of René Descartes is a perfect example of a weakened territory, with its aging and constantly declining population. Clified as a rural revitalization zone, the small town in the south of Touraine dwells on its past, marked by a flourishing paper industry.
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