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Hosepipe bans, pools and 4-minute showers - your questions answered on France's drought restrictions

The Local France
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Hosepipe bans, pools and 4-minute showers - your questions answered on France's drought restrictions
Warning posters about drought measures at the entrance of Le Front de mer campsite in Argeles-sur-Mer, on June 8, 2023. Photo by RAYMOND ROIG / AFP

Large parts of France are already on drought restrictions with others expected to follow during a summer that is forecast to be hot and exceptionally dry - we answer your questions on what this means for daily life in France.


It's not uncommon for drought restrictions to be applied in summer in France, especially in the south, but after an unusually dry winter restrictions began in the spring in some areas, and have gradually extended into summer.

You can check the drought alert map to find out what level of restriction (grey, yellow, orange or red) applies in your area, and what those restrictions mean. Bear in mind that this map is regularly updated and it's highly likely that restrictions will be extended as the summer continues.

In addition to the national restrictions, local authorities including mairies have the right to impose extra restrictions if necessary - right up to rationing tap water.


Last summer, the tap water ran completely dry in several areas, and in those areas it is the responsibility of the mairie to ensure access to drinking water - usually by distributing bottled water.

If your local mairie has imposed extra restrictions you will usually be contacted directly, but you can also check the mairie website.

Here we answer some of the most commonly-asked questions;

What's this about four-minute showers?

The government has launched an information campaign urging all households to save water this summer.

Local authorities have the power to impose restrictions in drought-hit areas, based on the above map, but the government is also launching a campaign encouraging people in all parts of the country to think about their water consumption this summer.

The following tips are recommendations, not rules;

  • Install an aerator on taps and a water-saving shower head;
  • Check your water meter regularly and repair any leaks;
  • Take a shower (ideally for 4-5 minutes) and avoid baths;
  • Install a rainwater collector to water your garden;
  • Install a drip system to water plants to limit evaporation;
  • Maintain gardens with as little water as possible: plant low-water-use, drought-resistant plants

Is there a hosepipe ban?

Hosepipe bans are common in the UK during drought periods, but French water restrictions work differently. There is no per se ban on hosepipes, but many areas have limited activities such as car-washing or watering the garden that you might normally use a hosepipe for.

Check local restrictions in your area, but for example in orange alert areas watering lawns and flower beds is forbidden while vegetable gardens can only be watered between 8pm and 9am. These rules apply whether you are using a hosepipe, watering can or any other implement.

Sprinklers are banned in many areas.

I have a well on my property, can I use water from the well to water the garden?

It's not uncommon in rural areas for properties to have a well, spring, borehole or similar in the garden that provides fresh but untreated water. Obviously you shouldn't drink this as it may not be safe, but many people use them to water gardens.

The standard level of drought restrictions cover only tap water, but local authorities can impose restrictions on all types of water if the situation requires it.

Unless otherwise stated, water restrictions concern only l'eau potable - tap water - so you can continue to use water from the well.

If your local restrictions mention l'eau brute - untreated water - that includes all types of water, including water from your well.

My mairie is restricting the use of l'eau brute - what is this?

L'eau brute is untreated water and covers anything that doesn't come out of the tap - the most common sources of this is a well or borehole on your property but it would also cover water gathered from a nearby river, lake or spring.


People who have a private well often use the l'eau brute to water the garden.

Standard water restrictions only concern tap water, but in some areas - including on the island of Corsica - local authorities have imposed restrictions on untreated water as well, as local water tables fall dangerously low.

Can I fill or refill my swimming pool?

This depends on the level of drought restriction in place in your area. In yellow and orange alert areas, pools can be filled up for the first time and then can be topped up, but not emptied and refilled.

In areas on red alert level pools cannot be filled or topped up, and local municipal swimming pools may also be closed. Mairies can also impose extra restrictions on private swimming pools.

One local authority in the south east has banned the sale of new private pools, in an attempt to limit water usage.


Could authorities start rationing tap water?

Yes, the highest national level of water restrictions - red - states that people should only use water for essential reasons such as drinking, washing and cooking.

However, last summer saw local authorities in particularly badly hit areas going further and imposing a daily limit on water, for example 200 litres per person per day. In a few communes, the taps ran completely dry and local authorities were forced to distribute bottled water to households for drinking and cooking.

In other areas, some mairies have imposed extra measures to try and encourage people to use less water - for example in the town of Grasse, water rates will become more expensive in summer and cheaper in winter.

Can I wash my car?

Again, it depends on the level of restriction in your area. The yellow level puts car-washing in with the garden-watering as something that can only be done at certain hours while at higher restriction levels it is banned altogether. 

If you are in a red alert zone water can only be used for essential purposes such as drinking, washing yourself (not your car) and cooking, and mairies may also impose their own restrictions. 

Even if you are in a low-level restriction zone, people are asked to make an effort to save water where they can and cut non-essential use, so maybe your car could deal with being a bit dusty for the next few weeks.

Can I wash my pets?

Some areas have restrictions in place relating to animals, but these tend to be more aimed at livestock than animaux de compagnie (pets)

Heatwaves can be stressful for domestic pets like dogs and cats and many enjoy a nice cool bath as the temperatures rise. While you should try to be careful and use water sparingly, if your pet needs a bath to cool down and stay healthy then that's OK. 

We are happy to answer questions from our members on any aspect of life in France, if you have a question email us on [email protected]


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