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WEATHER

‘Water will run out in 25 days’ – Corsica imposes strict new drought restrictions

Local authorities in Corsica have announced strict restrictions on water use, warning residents that if consumption continues at the current rate, "there will be no more water in 25 days."

'Water will run out in 25 days' - Corsica imposes strict new drought restrictions
Plants on a drought ground in Bastelicaccia on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica in 2021. (Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)

Rivers have slowed to a trickle, vegetation is dying and wildfires have broken out in the northern part of Corsica, leading the Haut-Corse local authorities to introduce strict new rules. 

If Météo France’s forecasts are confirmed, the region can expect very little or no rain in the next fifteen days.

All 96 of France’s metropolitan départements also have some level of water restrictions in effect, but local authorities have the power to impose extra restrictions if needed.

“Severe crisis will be unavoidable without a collective effort,” warned Haute-Corse’s préfet, François Ravier, in an announcement on Tuesday, August 2nd.

“If we continue at this rate of water consumption, given the anticipated weather developments, there will be no more water in 25 days!” 

As a result, local authorities have placed the northern Corsican region on “reinforced alert” for drought. 

READ MORE: MAP: Where are water restrictions in place in France and what do they mean?

All consumers – whether they use tap or non-tap (raw or rain-collected) water – are called upon to decrease their consumption by following the regulations outlined below:

  • Watering of gardens or sports pitches will only be allowed every 36 hours – even if you are using l’eau brut – ‘raw water’ that is not from a tap eg well water.

For households, the following activities are prohibited at all times:

  • Washing of vehicles outside of professional stations equipped with water savers (excepting for professional vehicles subject to sanitary or technical requirements)
  • Filling private swimming pools for family use after emptying, as well as additional filling
  • Washing boats (excepting professional boats subject to sanitary or technical requirements)
  • Watering by sprinkling of lawns, public and private green spaces, recreational gardens
  • Washing or watering terraces and private roads

The following activities are prohibited between 8am and 8pm:

  • Watering lawns, public and private green spaces, and recreational gardens with drip irrigation systems
  • Watering sports fields, golf courses, plant nurseries and public gardens
  • Washing public roads

The public announcement concluded by calling upon locals to lower current rates of consumption or risk a “severe crisis situation that will arise within 25 days.” 

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CLIMATE CRISIS

France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

After the second hottest summer ever recorded in France - after 2003 - French health authorities have released data on excess deaths recorded over the season.

France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

In a press release published by Santé publique France on Monday evening, the health authority noted that “multiple climatic phenomena” occurred during the summer, calling it the “hottest since 1900” with a “significant health impact.”

The data covers June to September and lists 10,420 excess deaths – that is deaths in excess of the average for the summer season.

Of those 2,816 deaths occurred during the three periods when the country was officially on heatwave alert – a 16.7 percent increase when compared to non-heatwave periods during the summer.

Experts also believe that many of the remaining 7,604 excess deaths were heat related, even if they occurred during periods when there was no heatwave warning in place.

“A part of this excess of summer mortality is probably due to the population being exposed to strong heat, even if temperatures did not reach the thresholds for heatwave alerts,” noted the report.

As expected, the worst affected were the elderly. Of the 2,816 excess deaths recorded during the three heatwave episodes this summer, 2,272 were among people aged 75 and over, i.e. nearly 80 percent of excess deaths during heatwaves.

However, all age groups were represented, as shown in the figures below. Most of the deaths across age groups occurred during the second heatwave, which was the “most intense” in terms of heat.

The impact of the pandemic

The pandemic also likely played a role in heat-related deaths. Specifically, 894 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded in hospitals and medical establishments during the heatwave episodes.

The head of Santé publique France’s “Quality of Living and Population Health” unit, Guillaume Boulanger, explained in a press conference that “Covid-19 could have increased vulnerability to heat for some people, and exposure to the heat may have worsened the condition of some patients affected by the virus.”

The excess mortality in relation to high temperatures is France’s “highest since 2003,” a year where a three-week heatwave resulted in over 15,000 deaths.

It was this heatwave, and the shock that so many elderly people were found dead in their own homes, that led to cities creating the heatwave plans that are in use today.

In addition to excess mortality, there was also a rise in non-fatal health complications across the country. Throughout the entire summer, more than 17,000 emergency room visits and 3,000 SOS Médecins consultations were recorded for hyperthermia, dehydration and hyponametria (salt deficiency resulting from dehydration).

Additionally, during heatwave periods, the number of emergency room visits and SOS Médecins consultations were two to three times higher than outside of heatwave periods.

The three heatwaves were described in the report as “intense and noteworthy.” The first occurred in June, at an unusually early time for the summer season, the second in July, which was widespread geographically and impacted over two-thirds of French population, and the third occurred in August.  

Geography

In terms of the parts of France that were most impacted, four regions – mostly concentrated in France’s south – stand out with particularly high levels of excess mortality.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur recorded the majority of the country’s excess national deaths during the heatwaves.

However, when looking at the deaths in proportion to the number of inhabitants, Brittany, a region typically known for cooler summer temperatures, saw a high proportion. The Paris region and Grand Est also saw higher per-population proportions of excess deaths.

The report joins other literature on the topic of excess deaths in Europe as a result of climatic events. The European Environment Agency recently released a study showing that without adaptation measures, if global warming were to reach 3C by 2100, “90,000 Europeans could die from heatwaves each year.”

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