Drought: what are municipalities doing where drinking water is lacking?


A “historically” dry month of July, lack of rainfall and repeated heat waves: water stress in turn spread to France. More than a hundred municipalities are experiencing a shortage of drinking water, in the heart of the summer season.

Under the effect of climate change, the water crisis, an exhaustible although renewable resource, seems to be accelerating. In France, the alternatives to overcome the lack of drinking water are multiplying and coupled with new instructions aimed at limiting the consumption of blue gold. These restrictions range from watering the lawn to time spent in the shower. A delicate equation.

Fines and restrictions

Where springs dry up, measures to directly limit water consumption follow. Taps cut off at certain times in Arboys-en-Bugey in Ain, agricultural irrigation totally or partially prohibited in several departments (Val-d’Oise, Côte-d’Or, Maine-et-Loire, Charente-Maritime, etc.) , prohibited watering, water liter quotas… 93 departments are affected by water restrictions, on different scales.

Offenders risk a fine of 1,500 euros, 3,000 euros in the event of a repeat offense. This amount rises to 7,500 euros for professionals. The French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) monitors the use of water. In the Var, “tablets” dividing the water flow by six are installed in the event of non-compliance with quotas, according to “Le Monde”.

desalinate sea water

Several municipalities have equipped themselves with desalination units capable of transforming seawater into fresh, drinkable water. In Rogliano, in Haute-Corse, on the island of Groix as well as on Ile-Molène, these installations, often temporary, can produce thousands of liters of water per day.

However, this operation is not without environmental impact. In addition to high energy consumption, these factories discharge brine into the sea. This water, which is highly loaded with salt and dangerous for the marine ecosystem, is partly responsible for the rising temperatures in the oceans.

The viability of desalination plants is thus criticized. In mainland France, very few cities use them. They are mainly present in the Gulf countries, where drought is frequent.

Draw from the lakes

Some municipalities, deprived of access to the sea, have turned to another source of water: natural lakes. Gérardmer, a station in the Vosges, plans to supply 80% of its network by pumping the lake which has made it famous. Of glacial origin, the expanse of water stands out as the largest lake in the department. This solution, of last resort, had already been used during the heat wave of 2003.

Refueling by tank trucks

Rather than producing more, villages, especially those perched high up, are opting for water delivery to fill their reservoirs. Tanker trucks transport the resource in quantities, de facto, limited to the size of their tanks. Both costly and restrictive, this alternative places hamlets in a situation of dependence on these weekly deliveries.

Wastewater recycling

At a time when France is reusing less than 1% of its water, the exceptional drought has put projects to recycle gray water (lightly polluted domestic water) back on the table. In Vendée in particular, Sables-d’Olonne is busy transforming wastewater from a treatment plant into drinking water. This so-called “Jourdain project” initiative, unprecedented in Europe, is awaiting a first phase of tests by 2024.

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