Rain forecast this weekend - but drought risk remains

secheresse drought generic

Restocking water supplies will take more than a weekend's rain, experts say

Drought orders are now in place in a seasonal record 86 out of 101 French departments.

A total of 205 specific orders have been issued to encourage or require professionals and individuals to save water, according to the French government's Propluvia website. Numerous departments have different levels of alert depending on the situation in localised areas.

Read more: How you can find out about drought orders

While the weekend's forecast rain will relieve some drought-affected areas, it will not make up for the rainfall deficit since the beginning of the year.

In Béziers, 112mm of rain has fallen since the beginning of the year, compared to 345mm in a normal year, while the city of Guéret, Creuse, has a deficit of 296 mm. 

Florence Habets, of the CNRS, told Franceinfo the weekend's rainfall would help recharge 'suffering' vegetation and give livestock farmers a break as it would stimulate grass growth. 

"But for the water tables, this will not be important. It will take a little while to recharge the soil and groundwater."

Meanwhile, expert Violaine Bault said that heavy rainfalls expected this weekend will tend simply to run off into rivers as the ground is so hard.

"It must rain in autumn and winter, when the vegetation is dormant, i.e. from the end of October. In terms of quantity, it is better to have light rain for several days than heavy thunderstorms," Ms Bault said.

Ms Habets added: "There will be no effective recharge before 2020. We will remain below normal and the deficit is not expected to be eliminated until the end of the year."

In a note published in early September, the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BRGM) noted that "groundwater levels are generally below the average levels for August" and that "most levels are decreasing".

Meanwhile, olive production has collapsed in the Hérault, with losses on this year's harvest estimated at 70%. 

One olive grower told Franceinfo that his harvest of table olives was 10 times lower than 2018. He said the summer's two intense heatwaves forced the olive trees to get rid of their fruit in order to survive. 

The harvest has started, with early indications revealing many table olives are smaller than normal, and with oil season looming, growers hope for some rain to boost the size of their fruit.

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