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Water restrictions hit France

Water restrictions hit one-third of France

CRISIS talks between ecology minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, water experts and water users such as power company EDF and farmers’ leaders have led to wide-ranging measures to cope with one of the most severe early-season droughts in history.

Ms Kosciusko-Morizet said: “All the indicators are orange to red; we are in a July situation as far as all the indicators are concerned, the water table, flow and snow melt.”

Nearly 30 departments have restrictions on water usage with 18 at the highest alert level, where industry, agriculture and power firms have to increase recycling and cut water usage.

The west has been particularly badly hit as France received just 29% of its average rainfall in April, leaving soils the driest for 50 years and nearly two-thirds of aquifers below normal. Industry uses by far the most water and, with 400 billion cubic metres of rain in an average year, it will take 23bn m3 while agriculture uses 4bn m3. Just 1.8bn m3 goes for drinking water.

Businesses have cut water use by 30% since the 1970s and have been encouraged to do more while Ms Kosciusko-Morizet said farmers should look at what crops they produce and how they use water. Vegetables such as beans, carrots and potatoes need less water than corn while cereals also need water when there is a shortage.

The minister said nuclear power stations needed guaranteed water supplies for cooling but said that there were measures already in place, including turning reactors off if they get too hot. From this month more detailed maps about water measures will be available for each departments affected.

Record temperatures have meant toxic algae is building up on Brittany beaches and prefectures are asking farmers to cut fertiliser usage.

The rise comes as Brittany region ended a lawsuit against green campaigners who used protest posters showing algae strewn beaches. The ecologist said they were not targeting the region.

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