Groundwater levels critically low

Two-thirds of France is affected by moderately or severely low groundwater levels, according to the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM) 

20 July 2017
By Carmen Cracknell

The Grand-Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Vallée du Rhône regions are the worst affected. 

When asked whether the situation was critical, hydrogeologist and head of water data evaluation at BRGM, Laurence Gourcy, said: “We have low water levels across the whole of France. We cannot really tell whether restricting water use is making a difference because it is difficult to measure water levels in aquifers”.

In June, 42 departments faced enforced water restrictions. A dozen, Marne, Ardennes, Loire-Atlantique, Vendée, Charente, Gers, Indre, Tarn, Lot, Deux-Sèvres, Seine-Maritime and Eure, were on the highest alert, meaning water use was restricted to 'priority use', namely health, civil security, drinking water and sanitation.

A lack of rainfall since September 2016 is the primary cause of low groundwater levels.

“Small villages which depend on a small water source may have difficulties getting drinking water. While we have plenty of reserve water, this needs to be replenished. This usually happens from October to November and takes a further five to six months to take effect,” Laurence Gourcy said.

A map released by the BRGM shows the situation in various regions compared with the previous two months, based on liquid level measurements taken with a piezometer. The map shows that the Rhône-Alpes region has very low water levels, while Aquitaine and the Grand Est have low water levels. Levels are close to the norm around Paris and Marseilles.

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