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Water limits in place in parts of France due to lack of spring rain

Surface level water deficits had already reached 60-80% in some areas, prompting water restrictions and drought fears - but rain is now forecast

2 May 2021
Drought surface level cracked earth. Water limits in place in parts of France due to lack of spring rainSuperficial soil drought has affected all of France so far this year, which is particularly worrying for farmers
By Hannah Thompson

Rain forecast at the weekend and into next week in France may dampen some spirits, but farmers will welcome the weather with drought warnings and water restrictions already in place in some areas of the country.

Rain was forecast for most of France this weekend, and expected to last until at least Tuesday May 4.

This is good news for farmers worried about their crops, especially in the south and west of the country, where water restrictions and drought fears had already set in due a lack of spring rain this year.

Superficial soil drought has affected all of France so far this year, especially in the west, where a surface level water deficit of 60-80% was recorded last week.

Since the beginning of spring - March 1 on the meteorological calendar - there has been a marked lack of rain across the country. 

In Tours, the rain deficit has reached 82%, reported France Bleu Touraine.

Weather presenter Evelyne Dhéliat explained to LCI: “This means that only 7mm of rain has fallen since March 1, instead of the 100mm usually expected at this time of year.”

Over the same period, barely 5mm fell in Toulouse, 3mm in Orléans, and just 1mm on the Brittany island of Ouessant.

 

Water restrictions in place already

Local authorities have already started to take precautions due to the lack of rain, including limiting water use through article L.211-3 II-1° of the environmental code.

Restrictions are already in place in Loire-Atlantique, Var and Vendée, where authorities advised: “Avoid all waste and take control of your water consumption.”

Hérault was placed on drought warning on April 20, while Bouches-du-Rhône introduced a warning even earlier, on April 12. Firefighters in the latter department are on alert for forest fires as a result.

Lozère has banned the burning of green waste due to the drought conditions.

Drought records for the month of April were broken in Deux-Sèvres. 

Frédérique Chassot, meteorologist and forecaster at Météo-France-La Rochelle, recorded a record low for the month of April at the station in Parthenay, which was opened in 1959. 

The record showed just 4.2 mm of rain fell on Thursday, April 22, breaking the previous low record of 4.7 mm in 1984.

It was a similar story at the Niort and Thouars weather stations; 7.5 mm was recorded, making this time period the third and fourth-driest times respectively, since 1959.

Mr Chassot explained: “We have always had rainy periods alternating with dryer ones. This depends on the position of anticyclones (high pressure areas) and depressions (low pressure areas). 

“There will be more rain when fronts with clouds or rain encounter areas of high pressure.”

You can check for drought warnings and water restrictions near you on the Ecology Ministry’s Propluvia website (as shown in the screenshot from April 30 below).

Map: Propluvia

Farmer fears

While the deep underground water levels are still healthy, the surface of the ground still requires regular rain in spring to fuel the fast growth of plants at this time of year, and stop the soil and earth from drying out and cracking. 

This has happened especially early this year, and is particularly worrying for farmers.

Cereal farmer Benoît Latour told France Bleu Touraine: “If it doesn’t rain in the next 10 days, it will affect 50% of the wheat crop.”

Dairy and chicken farmer Daniel Jaouen, in Occitanie, said that he was also hoping for rain, as there was already a lack of good grass for his cattle.

As France Bleu Breizh Izel reported, since snow fell in Finistère in February, there was then a dry spell of almost two months.

Rain forecast

Yet, rain has been forecast across most of France as the weekend continues, and into next week.

Meteo-France predicts showers across most of the northern half and east of France for Sunday May 2, a sunnier day for Monday May 3, and rain across most of the northern two-thirds of the country for Tuesday May 4 and into the rest of the week.

Map: Meteofrance.com

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