An environmental police officer from France inspects a golf course in Rochefort-en-Yvelines, near Paris, on August 5, 2022.
Water thefts, fields irrigated despite bans, private swimming pools difficult to control… The lack of water, long seen as an inexhaustible resource in France, exacerbates tensions.
Like many European countries, France has been affected this summer by repeated heat waves and exceptional drought.
This year is truly exceptional, notes a specialist in the water sector who requested anonymity. In the south-east of France, where he is based, conflicts over water are not new, but today it is exacerbated.
In mid-July, 400 m3 of water intended for firefighting was stolen from a retention basin in Ardèche, a southern department in heightened vigilance due to drought.< /p>
The guilty? A neighboring motocross club, which came to pump it to supply [its] fire reserve and parking security as part of the organization of a festival, its vice-president told AFP. , Roger Kappel.
This water for me is a public good, he justifies. We recognize that we had no real right to do so and the water was returned.
This is the first time that this has happened to us, assures the president of the Community of communes of the Bassin d'Aubenas, in Ardèche, Max Tourvieilhe.
C' is dangerous […], not a drop of water has fallen for months, the prefect asks us to reduce water consumption […] and next to that, we allow ourselves to recover 400 m3 of water for private use? No, that is not possible! he thunders.
In the west, in the department of Charente-Maritime, on the Atlantic coast, some farmers irrigate their crops, ignoring the limitations, protests the NGO France Nature Environnement (FNE).
A minority of farmers violate irrigation ban orders and endanger a precious resource, a common good, water, denounces- t-she.
In 2022, France experienced its driest July since such data is recorded.
Metropolitan France is experiencing a historic drought, a sign of climate change. Only 9.7 millimeters of rain fell in July, a rainfall deficit of around 84% compared to normal for the period 1991-2020, according to forecaster Météo-France.
We discover that this water, which we thought was inexhaustible, is rare. It will become increasingly rare at certain times of the year and it will have to be shared, comments Thierry Burlot, president of the Loire-Bretagne basin committee (west), interviewed by France Culture radio.
Currently, all metropolitan departments are on drought alert, with 22 departments on heightened alert and 68 in crisis.
Grapes are suffering from drought in eastern France.
In At this highest alert level, watering lawns and vehicles, or irrigating crops is prohibited, as is the filling of bodies of water. Restrictions valid for all, individuals, farmers or industrialists.
We must maintain enough water for the most important uses (drinking water, sanitation, health, safety), explains to AFP Agnès Ducharne, researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
But we are at the bone in terms of water resources: the pie is shrinking, the conflicts are sharpening and therefore this raises the question of the legitimacy of uses, […] fair treatment between social groups, analysis Sylvain Barone, researcher and specialist in the water sector, on France Culture.
Concretely, how to explain to an elderly person that she can't water her vegetable garden during the day when part of the golf courses and soccer fields are? he wonders.
He also cites the private swimming pools of wealthy residences on the Mediterranean coast of the Côte d'Azur (southeast), difficult to be controlled and whose owners do not care about the water bill, or tourist municipalities by the sea, attached to their flower beds, when small villages in the hinterland play the game.
We must ensure that the biggest consumers make the greatest efforts, he pleads.
Faced with water that has become more rare, this will require compromises, as well as water management throughout the year and not only in summer during shortages, argues Thierry Burlot.