In Images: How drought has left its mark on much of France

The heatwave may have passed but the drought persists in much of France. These alarming images illustrate why a record number of French départements currently have water restrictions.

In Images: How drought has left its mark on much of France
Photos: AFP

Eighty-eight of France’s 95 metropolitan départéments are currently dealing with strict water restrictions after the hottest summer on record in many parts of l’Héxagone. 

Government agency Propluvia, which works closely with France’s Agriculture and Environment Department, published the results on Wednesday.

The départements coloured in red are where non-essential water usage for agriculture, green spaces, golf courses etc is currently prohibited. An incredible 50 départements have these limitations right now.

The départements in orange have considerable restrictions in place, the ones in yellow have moderate limitations and the grey ones are being encouraged to save water.

Among the départements that have been labelled by Propluvia as having a “water crisis”, are Creuse, Haute-Vienne and Indre in central France, Deux-Sevres slightly further west and Gers in the southwest.

But the drought’s damaging effects are visible across many other parts of the country: river banks have dried up, lakes have shrunk and crops, flora and fauna have perished.

The following photos offer insight into the most widespread drought in France in modern records. 

Horses attempt to graze in this dried up field in Bastelicaccia, southern Corsica. There are no water restrictions in place as there has been rainfall in the French Mediterranean island this summer, but areas to the east and far south have been badly hit by drought. 

Beziers, Hérault
A photo taken near the southern town of Beziers in Occitanie shows thousands of dead fish, killed by drought’s effects on the Orbs river.

Hérault departement has been given an orange alert, with reports that local olive production has dropped by 70 percent due to ‘la secheresse’ (drought in French).

This département in east central France is situated between the two rivers it gets its name from. But as Yannick Morey explains in this tweet, “Saone-et-Loire has been badly hit by the drought…at a time when the prairies should be green and the mushrooms should be growing fiercely, this is the image.


Bourges, Yèvre

Here are before and after images of the droughts effects on Val d’Auron lake in Bourges, a city in central France. 

The second image, taken from a drone video by YouTuber Patrick Brousse, shows just how badly the lake has dried up due to evaporation during the scorching summer months. 

Bourges town hall had to cancel paddle and sailing activities at the end of August as a result. Considerable water restrictions are in place across the département of Yèvre.


One of the “water crisis” départements of central France and the following images reflect why. The first photo shows a group of mussels stuck to the cracked up, dry land that was once under water. The second shows a cow struggling to graze near-barren land.

The situation is so serious in Creuse and neighbouring Correze that there are even restrictions on tap water. Local officials have given residents 16,000 bottles of mineral water to help them overcome the shortages.  


The Loire River has suffered greatly during this summer’s months of extreme heat.

In Montjean-sur-Loire, where this striking photo of a fish carcass on the dehydrated riverbed was taken, local residents are in shock having never seen anything like it.

Sandbanks occupy three quarters of the width of the Loire and the water level is well below the “zero” on the scale, fluctuating between -2m04 and -2m15. 

We end with this video by water management official Bertrand Gonthiez, a reminder of how easy it is for water to be wasted when it is needed most. 

Spécialiste de la gestion de l'#eau et de l'#environnement. Auteur aux Éditions #Eyrolles. Référent #LaREMA

A reminder of how easy it is for water to be wasted. 



Maine-et-Loire, western France

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Drought alerts in France: Here’s what you can do to save water

Drought has hit two thirds of France, with 64 departments currently affected by water restrictions. Here's a look at what you can do to save water and how the low water levels might affect your Christmas celebrations.

Drought alerts in France: Here's what you can do to save water
The dry riverbed of the River Doubs. File photo: AFP

Several parts of the country are on 'crisis' alert (coloured red in the map below), which means that water is restricted to only essential use – drinking water, sanitation and public health usage, with even agricultural use restricted.

Map: Propluvia (Ministère de la Transition Ecologique et Solidaire)

France has four levels of drought alert and a total of 64 departments – around two thirds of the country – currently have warnings in place. 
To check what restrictions are in place where you live, click here.
If you are one of those affected by the restrictions, here are a few ways you can save water. 
Adapt your toilet
The amount of water used to flush a toilet is something most people don't really think about – but every time you flush around seven litres of H2O are used. 
However there is a nifty trick to help you cut down on the amount of water you use per flush – take a bottle and fill it with a few pebbles and water and place it in the toilet tank. By doing this, less water will be needed to fill up the tank meaning less will be used during the flush. 
Just be careful that the bottle isn't touching any of the working parts. 
Many people are used to taking long, leisurely showers but you can save a lot of water by shortening them – even by as little as five minutes. 
You can also buy low-flow shower heads for relatively little money and this will save you a lot of water over time.  
Baths use a lot more water than showers, but if you must have a bath think about sharing it with a loved one (or sharing the water with someone you are just tolerably fond of).
Fix any leaks 
One litre in five is lost in France due to leaks, so it's important to check your house to make sure you aren't wasting water without realising it. 
People are advised to do a thorough check for leaks every so often and to replace the inside parts of your toilet every year or two.
Washing clothes and dishes
Only do full loads of laundry and dirty dishes.
If you wait until the washing machine and dishwasher are full before running them, you can save dozens of litres of water.
Another way to save water is to choose plants that don't need much of it to survive. 
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain very greedy plants, such as busy Lizzies which are now being replaced by begonias,” Jean-Marie Avizard, the chief gardener at Giverny, told Le Parisien. “We must also think mulching to prevent the soil from drying up too quickly.”
Some towns in France are adjusting the kinds of ornamental plants they use with this in mind. For example, Pessac in the Gironde has chosen Mediterranean ornamental plants, reducing the water needed to take care of them by 30 percent.
Speaking of plants, we have some potentially bad news about Christmas… there are some fears in France that the drought could lead to a shortage of Christmas trees this year. 
As government restrictions on water usage are becoming more stringent, the forests of the Vosges mountains are drying up. Around 100,000 cubic meters of fir trees have already died which is the equivalent area of about forty Olympic swimming pools.