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MAP: Where in France is under water restrictions in spring 2023?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected] • 5 May, 2023 Updated Fri 5 May 2023 11:02 CEST
MAP: Where in France is under water restrictions in spring 2023?
A completely dry riverbed of river near Lourmarin, southern France, on March 3, 2023. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

More than two dozen French départements have already been placed on water restrictions this spring, with two already at the 'crisis' level.


After 32 days of record-breaking winter drought in February, France began to see some more rainfall during the month of March. However, according to climate experts, underground water tables are still at worryingly low levels.

In total 19 départements - Ain, Alpes Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Ardèche, Aude, Bouches-du-Rhône, Deux-Sèvres, Drôme, Gard, Haute-Saône, Hérault, Isère, Loiret, Oise, Pyrénées-Orientales, Var, Vaucluse, Vienne and Yvelines - currently have water restrictions in place.

Pyrénées-Orientales is among the worst affected, and the préfecture has banned the sale of above-ground swimming pools in the area. 

In France, water restrictions are done by municipality and there are four levels. The first step is issuing a drought warning (called vigilence in French), and the next three continue in severity and involve restrictions on domestic water use. The restrictions are implemented at a local level. 

Two French départements - Bouches-du-Rhône, which contains Marseille, and the Gard - have risen to the 'crisis' level.

Several other départements have issued drought warnings, or vigilence, where people are encouraged to reduce water consumption, without putting any water restrictions in place yet. These are coloured grey in the map below.

In total, as of Sunday, almost half (47) of France's 96 mainland départements had either issued a drought warning or put water restrictions in place.


Local authorities in Pyrénées-Orientales have announced that starting on May 10th, new water restrictions will come into effect for the Têt and Agly communes, near the border with Spain.

The restrictions will bring bring communes to the crisis level too - the highest level of drought warning, which involves restrictions on non-priority water withdrawals, such as for washing cars and watering gardens, green spaces, or golf courses.

A screenshot of a map taken by The Local showing water restrictions in France, based on information from May 2nd (Source: French gvmt Propluvia website)

More drought warnings and water restrictions are expected in the coming weeks. In its bulletin on Wednesday, Météo France estimated that there is a 50 percent chance temperature will be warmer than normal between May and July 2023.

Climate experts have also expressed concern about "productive rainfall" during the months of March and April, in order to refill both above and below ground water supplies.

However, the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM) told Le Parisien that the month of March did not see a enough rainfall to "generate a significant improvement".

In mid-April, all of France's water tables were below normal levels, with 75 percent France's at moderately low to very low levels, in comparison to 80 percent one month ago.

As such, there is a "real" risk for summer drought in certain French regions, representatives from the organisation explained in a press conference.

According to Météo-France, France experienced a 40 percent rainfall surplus at the national level compared to normal, but the effects depended greatly by region, with aquifers in Brittany and Nouvelle-Aquitaine benefiting more from a more "significant recharge episodes".

Overall, "rainfall infiltrated deep into the ground during the month of March was not sufficient to bring about a clear improvement", the BRGM explained.

According to the BRGM, at least 50 metropolitan départements, particularly in the north, centre and southeast of the country, are at "very strong" risk of drought, potentially looking ahead to a difficult spring and summer. If there is not a significant surplus of rainfall in the coming weeks, then more départements will likely fall under water restriction orders, BRGM said.

At the end of March, French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a water-saving plan, with the goal of cutting the country's water usage by 10 percent by 2030.

READ MORE: Macron unveils water-saving plan as France faces record drought

"Beyond the urgency of this summer, this is above all a plan of savings and efficiency in the long term", Macron said. The summer of 2022 in France was marked by scorching temperatures and record droughts and the unusually dry winter has failed to recharge groundwater supplies. Such events are predicted to become more and more common in the years ahead due to the climate crisis.


Macron said that the plan will be implemented across five axes: sector-by-sector water savings plans, fighting against water loss, reusing wastewater, better planning for water usage in the agriculture industry, and the institution of progressive water pricing.

In terms of cost, the head of state said that the budget for 'water agencies' would increase by €500 million per year - which will end up being an increase in the general budget for the 'water economy' of €6 billion.


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