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ENVIRONMENT

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

All of France's metropolitan départements currently have water restrictions in place. Here's how to find out what restrictions are in place in your area, and what that means for everyday life.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

As of Tuesday, August 11th, 93 of France’s mainland départements have some level of drought alert in place, including the Paris region. Of these alerts, 68 are at the highest ‘crise‘ (red) level. 

The government’s Propluvia website has a map showing areas where restrictions are in place which is regularly updated as restriction levels change, although local authorities can also impose their own extra restrictions (see below).

READ ALSO: Ask the expert: Why is France’s drought so bad and what will happen next?

However, water restrictions are not put in place on a département level, as the map below shows, so first you need to work out whether your local area is at vigilance, alerte, alerte renforcée or crise level. 

The map below shows the restrictions as of August 11th, 2022.

Photo credit: Propluvia

There are four main drought alert levels:

Vigilance (grey on the map): the lowest alert level, involving raising awareness and encouraging individuals to reduce water usage (see below for some tips), but no activities are actually banned.

This level signifies that a more serious water shortage is likely in the coming weeks without significant rain.

Alerte (yellow): a full water supply for all normal daily activities can no longer be assured.

Limits on agricultural and nautical water usage are in place.

For private households, watering of lawns, sports fields, flower beds and vegetable gardens is also prohibited between 11am and 6pm and the filling and emptying of private pools (over 1 cubic meter) is prohibited except for refilling/topping up or a first filling “if the work had begun before the first restrictions”. 

Public swimming pools are open without restrictions.

Alerte renforcée (orange): a full water supply can no longer be guaranteed.

Farmers must reduce their water consumption by 50 percent and all daytime watering is banned, as are sprinklers. The watering of sports fields and golf courses is strictly limited.

For private households the watering of lawns and flower beds is prohibited. Vegetable gardens may only be watered between 8pm and 9am.

The filling and emptying of private pools (over 1 cubic meter) is prohibited except for refilling/topping up or a first filling “if the work had begun before the first restrictions”. 

Public swimming pools may be closed, at the discretion of the local health authority.

Crise (red): A ban on any non-priority use, including agricultural purposes. Water may only be used for essential reasons – health, civil security, drinking and sanitation.

Farmers are forbidden to irrigate their crops with sprinkler systems and sports fields and gold courses can only be watered if they are being used for national or international level competition.

Public swimming pools can only be refilled with the express permission of local health authorities and private swimming pools cannot be refilled. 

Private households can only use water for essential reasons such as drinking, cooking or washing.

Local restrictions

At each alert level, local préfectures and mairies can introduce extra restrictions if it is thought necessary.

In Haute-Corse, the region in the north of Corsica, local authorities have warned that if current water consumption habits continue as they are, then the area will ‘run out of water within 25 days.’ As a result, they have extended some restrictions to include non-tap water as well as tap water.

Meanwhile hundreds of villages have either run out of water altogether, or local authorities have imposed rationing on a commune level because of dangerously low local supplies. 

If this is the case in your area, you will be contacted by the mairie to advise you of the new rules. In areas where the tap water supply has failed, it is also the responsibility of the mairie to distribute bottled water to households. 

Most restrictions concern only l’eau potable (tap water) but some also include l’eau brute – which is untreated water such as water from a well on your property.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is water likely to be rationed as France’s drought worsens?

Record drought

France experienced its driest July on record since 1959 – there was just 9.7 millimetres of rain in July, Météo France said.

That was 84 percent down on the average levels seen for July between 1991 and 2022, and made it the second driest month since March 1961, the agency added. 

As early as May 13th, the government was advising residents to cut water use as much as possible by making sure taps were turned off when not in use, and limiting the amount of water they used on their garden

Water-saving tips

Even in areas on a low level of alert, the Environment Ministry is asking everyone to make an effort to save water and has released the following tips:

  • Turn off taps, and don’t let them drip;
  • Limit the amount of tap water used on gardens – install containers to collect and store rainwater to use instead;
  • Install water-saving equipment;
  • Take a shower instead of a bath;
  • Repair water leaks;
  • Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher half empty.

The above are all suggestions, rather than rules so you don’t need to worry about the mayor coming round to check whether you’re having a shower or a bath.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

As the climate crisis pushes temperatures ever higher, officials in Paris are preparing a simulation of the day when the mercury tops 50C, in order to prepare the city's emergency response.

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

This simulation, which was announced on Wednesday, is set to take place in October 2023, and it would plunge two parts of one arrondissement (which has not yet been decided) into the fictitious scenario to test the city’s capacity to respond to such a crisis. 

The current temperature record in Paris is 42.6C, which was set during the heatwave of 2019, but experts predict that the record is unlikely to remain unbroken for much longer.  

According to Deputy Mayor of Paris, Penelope Komitès, the city wants to be able to anticipate the next disaster.

“[Paris] has withstood various crises in recent years,” she said to French daily Le Parisien. The public official referenced past disasters, such as the flood of the Seine in 2018, Notre-Dame catching on fire, along with widespread protests and social movements.

“What will be the next crisis?” she said.

Public authorities hope to expand upon and move beyond the city’s first “action plan,” which was adopted in 2017.

The heatwave simulation would allow the city to test its emergency response capacity, namely deployment of cool rooms, shaded areas and other measures. It would also allow public officials to gauge and predict the reactions of Parisians amid a disastrous heatwave of 50C. 

READ MORE: ‘Over 40C’: What will summers in Paris be like in future?

“We have survived crises, but they can happen again,” Komitès said to Le Parisien. Her goal is not for the simulation to provoke anxiety, but instead to prepare the city to mobilise in such an event. 

According to RTL, on Wednesday, the greater Paris region also presented its plan to adapt the community “to the effects of climate change”.

Valérie Pécresse, the regional representative, referenced plans for “1,000 fountains” and the creation of “a network of climate shelters.”

Additionally, the region has set a target of increasing its green space by 5,000 hectares by 2030. The targets of this plan would include priority urban spaces: schoolyards, parking lots, squares, as well as cemeteries.

In 2003, the country suffered a historic heatwave that resulted in at least 14,000 heat-related deaths. Since then, France and its cities have begun adapting to rising temperatures by working to increase green space, provide ‘heat

An analysis from the BBC in 2021 found that “the number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50C has doubled since the 1980s.”

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

This will not be the first simulation activity to anticipate or help the public become aware of rising temperatures. 

In 2014, meteorologist Evelyne Dhéliat gave a ‘fake forecast’ pretending that the year was 2050. The temperatures on her map however, ended up being eerily close to those France has seen regularly since 2019.

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