More than 100 French villages without tap water in ‘unprecedented’ drought

The whole of France is now on drought alert, but in some areas the situation is even worse with local authorities forced to cut off tap water because of insufficient supplies, a situation that now affects at least 100 communes.

More than 100 French villages without tap water in 'unprecedented' drought
Rivers and lakes across France have dried up as the country grapples with its worst drought in decades. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

“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. 

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

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. 

Member comments

  1. The Communes of the Pays de Fayence (83) have imposed a consumption limit of 200 litres per person per day and 150 litres per person per day for some parts of Seillans, with higher charges for users who exceed these limits. All this at a time, when the area is crowded with tourists from all over Europe and we have the massive Lac de Saint-Cassien situated wholly within the Pays de Fayence (which supplies Frejus & St Raphael) but from which our communes receive no water supply – crazy!

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IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

As France continues to suffer its worst drought on record, many of its mighty rivers - including the Loire and the Dordogne - have in some areas dwindled to a trickle while in other regions lakes and reservoirs have vanished.

IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

Almost all of France is now under some level of water restrictions and in many communes tap water has been rationed or even cut off altogether as supplies run dry.

The climate crisis-linked drought – intensified by an unusually hot summer – has dried out many subterranean water supplies, but the country’s rivers are also affected.

From the Loire to the Dordogne, rivers are slowing to a trickle – as this aerial video from French TV channel LCI shows.

The dry bed of the Loire River in Saumur, western France on August 8th. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

Swimmers bathe in the Adour river near Aire-sur-Adour, southwestern France, on August 9th. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

Across France many lakes have also virtually dried up, while reservoirs are at a perilously low level.

The dry bed of Lac des Brenets, part of the Doubs River, a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

In inland areas, many lakes have ‘beaches’ that serve as leisure attractions for locals who are too far away for day-trips to the sea – complete with sun-beds, bars, cafés and souvenir stalls.

Some lake beaches have been forced to close because of the lack of water.

A man walks at the Castillon lake, partially dried out, in Saint-Andre-les-Alpes, southeastern France. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

Marshland has also dried out, threatening wildlife and also the livelihood of France’s artisan salt-makers, who produce fleur de sel from salt marshes around the French coastline.

French salt worker Evan Thoby collects salt flowers in salt marshes, in Batz-sur-Mer, western France. Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

These scenes have been repeated across Europe, including in Italy where the Po river has dried up and Germany where the Rhine – which carried a huge amount of freight traffic in normal times – is perilously low and has had to restrict shipping.