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ENVIRONMENT

France orders crisis task force over ‘historic’ drought

The French government has activated a crisis task force to coordinate efforts to alleviate the impact of a "historic" drought exacerbated by a third extreme heatwave of the summer.

France orders crisis task force over 'historic' drought
The dried out bed of Lac des Brenets on the border of France and Switzerland. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Water restrictions have already been ordered in nearly all of France’s 96 mainland départements, with 62 at the highest alert level, and national weather agency Météo-France has forecast little relief in the coming weeks.

“This drought is the worst-ever recorded in our country … the situation could persist for the next two weeks and become even worse,” the office of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said in a statement.

The dry conditions are a “disaster” for farmers across the country as well as for “our ecosystems and biodiversity,” it added.

Soaring temperatures have increased the evaporation of lakes and rivers whose levels have fallen just as irrigation needs rise ahead of autumn harvests.

The state-controlled electricity provider EDF has had to reduce output at several nuclear plants because river temperatures have become too high, which means water used to cool reactors cannot be safely returned to natural waterways.

“Faced with this historic situation, the prime minister has decided to activate an interdepartmental crisis task force and urges everyone to conserve our water resources,” her office said.

But the statement did not address growing criticism over exceptions that have been granted to golf courses, which are being allowed to continue watering greens even in departments now on drought crisis alert.

Several other European countries have also issued severe drought warnings, with the EU urging members this week to re-use treated urban waste water for the continent’s parched farms.

The crisis has kindled fears that yields of grain and other crops will suffer, further raising food prices already climbing in part from the disruptions caused by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

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WEATHER

Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect this week in France?

As we get into August the very hot weather continues, with heatwave warnings for some parts of France and storms in other regions - here's what we can expect this week.

Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect this week in France?

Monday

The week begins relatively cool (for August, that is) in most parts of France, with only two départements – Gard and Vaucluse in the south – on orange alert for heatwaves.

Temperatures in Gard and Vaucluse will climb to around 38C and the temperatures will stay hot through the nights, predicts French weather forecaster Météo France.

Tuesday and Wednesday

The heat warnings will gradually spread north throughout the week, with more départements expected to be placed on orange alert as the week goes on. 

The high temperatures – spread by a hot plume travelling north – are predicted to reach the Loire Valley by Tuesday and then spread north and east to Burgundy and the greater Paris region on Wednesday and Thursday.

Thursday

By Thursday most of France will be experiencing temperatures of 35C-38C, with only the northern coastline expected to remain under 30C.

Friday

Temperatures are predicted to drop slightly on Friday, but it will remain hot on Friday and Saturday, especially in the south with the départements of Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales, Gard and Hérault predicted to be the hottest places.

Sunday

Thunderstorms are predicted to hit the country on Sunday, particularly along the south coast and the island of Corsica, where heavy rainstorms could cause flash flooding.

Drought

The drought continues and all of France is now on some level of alert with water restrictions imposed in many areas.

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

Experts at Météo France say that even the thunderstorms are unlikely to ease the situation.

Most of France remains on high alert for forest fires because of the exceptionally dry landscape. 

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