The French government is on the verge of enforcing water-saving measures on the south of France following a winter with record rain deficits.
The winter of 2022/23 has been the driest on record in France since 1959, leading to growing concerns from authorities in the Alpes-Maritimes and Var about serious water shortages come summer. The priority now, ahead of warmer months, is what can be done to ease pressures on an already depleted water table.
French Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu met with a resources committee from the Alpes-Maritimes on Tuesday 7th March. Together they recommended that the department should begin issuing drought alerts by the end of the week. The committee is made up of the key players in the region’s water sector and its role is to monitor the availability of local resources.
When groundwater tables and river flows drop, they meet to discuss what next steps, if any, should be taken, and in this case, they are leaping into action. Other departments, such as the neighbouring Var, have already been partially placed under drought alerts, and the Alpes-Maritimes will also most likely be joining them.
“At the end of this week, we should have 12 instead of five departments concerned by vigilance or alert measures,” Christophe Béchu said, adding, “The situation can obviously continue to change.”
Rainfall totals are 57% below average for this time of year. Last year the Alpes-Maritimes Prefecture issued its first drought-related alerts on 9th March, showing the problem is becoming habitual. Meteo-France reports that all except three months have had rain deficits since August 2021 and that the next three months will be critical to give groundwater supplies chance to bounce back before summer.
In addition, 62 municipalities on the Côte d’Azur have asked to be classified as natural disaster areas brought on by the drought of 2022.
Some of the water restrictions that can be expected include prohibiting the filling up of swimming pools and daytime lawn watering.
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