France hit by drought: What you need to know about water restrictions

France hit by drought: What you need to know about water restrictions
Photo: AFP
Here's what you need to know about the measures being taken by local authorities in France to battle low water levels.
Water usage is being restricted across large parts of France as a result of the worsening drought situation affecting swathes of the country. 
The board of geological research (BRGM) estimates that three quarters, or 74 percent to be exact, of underground reservoirs are showing “moderately low to very low” levels of water. 
And to avoid these levels sinking any lower regional authorities are taking action and putting in place restrictions on water usage. 
Here's what you need to know. 
How many departments are affected?
From July 20th 68 departments have adopted at least one of the measures with 179 local orders limiting the use of water currently in place. 
The full list of affected departments can be found on a government website managed by the ministry of environment and agriculture called Propluvia
Different levels of seriousness are indicated on the site, ranging from the most serious level “Crise” (red) when water can only be used in situations considered a priority for example for health related reasons, as well as for drinking water and hygiene, to the lowest “Vigilance” (grey) when people are advised to economise their water use.  
Map: Propluvia
The two other warnings are the second highest “high alert” (orange) and the third highest simply called “alert” (yellow). 
Faced with an increasingly worrying drought situation, several local authorities took action this week including in the eastern area of Alsace on the German border and the northern Pas-de-Calais area. 
The restrictions mainly affect the industrial and agricultural industries which have been instructed to reduce their use of water by 10 percent in the northern Hauts-de-France region.
In the southwestern coastal city of La Rochelle in the department of Charente-Maritime – currently on high alert for drought – local authorities have decided to stop street cleaning and are limiting the irrigation of green spaces.
Is drought common during this time of the year?
The low levels of water estimated by the BRGM is not completely unheard of during the summer months but the organisation stresses that this doesn't mean it's not a precarious one. 
The low levels of rain during the past winter and spring combined with the recent hot temperatures seen across swathes of France have all contributed to the current state of affairs. 
How do local authorities decide on what restrictions need to be taken?
Every month a water report is published by regional environmental departments which the local authorities can then use to cross-reference with the alert levels to decide what action needs to be taken. 
Drought orders are put in place for a limited period of time and in a limited area.  
What happens if you don't follow the initiatives? 
Each local authority has police officers called “police de l'eau” who are reponsible for making sure drought orders are observed. 
If you aren't following orders these police officers can dish out penalties including a fine of €1,500 which can go as high as €3,000 for repeat offences.