“More than 100 communes today have no tap water,” said environment minister Christophe Béchu while on a trip to Alpes-Haute-Provence, adding that the situation is “historic”.
Cuts in the tap water supply have been reported across France as either local supplies fail or authorities are forced to impose strict limits because of a lack of water. Back in Paris an emergency drought taskforce has been set up.
On a national level, the whole country is on a drought warning, with four levels of restrictions ranging from merely advice to cut water usage to bans on a host of activities such as watering the garden.
However in some villages the situation is even worse, and residents have found themselves without running water.
Béchu said that in those areas with no tap water, vans are already making deliveries of bottled water, but added that other areas have introduced strict limits in order to avoid running dry.
On top of the national drought alert levels, local authorities are empowered to impose extra restrictions or even begin rationing if necessary.
Authorities in northern Corsica imposed strict new rules on Wednesday after warning that the water “would run out in 25 days” if present usage levels continue.
Villages in Drôme, Finistère, Haute-Saône, Dordogne, Vosges, Var, Creuse and Haut-Loire have all reported temporary cuts in the water supply.
In the small village of Ollières in Var, south east France, locals told France Info that their taps ran dry and when water supplies resumed the tap water was declared unsafe because sand and sediment had got into the pipes.
The mairie began distributing bottled water, while announcements were broadcast telling people not to drink tap water.
“In three hours, the 700 inhabitants were supplied with bottles,” mayor, Arnaud Fauquet-Lemaitre, told Franceinfo.
Although supplies have now resumed, Fauquet-Lemaitre warned: “If we don’t reduce our water consumption, in one, two or three weeks we’ll find ourselves in the same situation.”
He added that an unusually hot and dry summer has been made worse by a lack of snow in the Alps over the winter, as meltwater forms a major party of the water supplies for the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
In a nearby village in Var, the mayor has imposed a water limit of 200 litres per person per day.
Similar stories have been reported across France, even in areas like Brittany that usually do not suffer from droughts.
France had the driest July ever recorded, and the summer has already seen three heatwaves, with experts warning that heatwaves and droughts will become more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens.