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Drought-hit French commune gives locals free water-saving devices

With river levels extremely low, a mayor in southern France has moved to protect precious water supplies

The water-saving devices can be installed on taps and showerheads, to save up to 60% of water per year Pic: Lungkit / Shutterstock

A mayor in southern France has handed out water-saving devices to locals in a bid to cut consumption levels.

Francis Barsse made the move with water levels low in the rural commune of Bédarieux (Hérault).

The nearby River Orb is “about 15-20 centimetres below normal levels”, according to Clément Dolques, the managing agent for water in the 5,736-inhabitant commune. 

There are also fears the springs that supply drinking water to the area could dry up.

“I appeal to everyone's common sense to reduce their water consumption to the strict minimum so as not to suffer drastic measures in the coming months which would have a strong impact on us,” wrote Mr Barsse in March. 

“On our scale, we adapt by limiting the watering of our green spaces and sports grounds as much as possible, but beyond these daily measures we have agreed with the Department of Hérault and launched six months ago, the search for a new resource to protect us from the possible drying up of our Douzes and Joncasse springs.”

Mr Barsse, in a bid to protect water supplies, has distributed 220 free devices to residents.

They enable three ordinary taps and one shower to save water by reducing the water flow.

“With this, you save [on average] 50% of your ordinary consumption, which is huge,” he told FranceInfo. “For a family of four, that’s almost 40m3 saved per year. That’s about €270 to €300 saved per year.”

Depending on a household’s normal water usage, the kits allow people to save 30-60% of their consumption per year. Some residents have also added a rain collector to use rainwater for outdoor cleaning and gardening. 

Read more: France allows local authorities to use wastewater after record drought 

One resident, who has installed one of the water-saving devices in her bathroom, said: “The first benefit is financial because we consume less water. The second is that we know very well that water is becoming a rare resource, so if we can save it, all the better.”

The mother-of-three said that her usual water bills are between €700-900 per year, and she is hoping that it will help her save significantly on costs.

The scheme comes as France is suffering from historically low water levels nationwide. A drought in 2022 has been compounded by a record winter dry spell. 

Late last year, the Hérault department was put on drought alert. The Aude basin, in the southwest of the department, was placed on heightened alert.

You can check the latest restrictions for Hérault and other French departments here.

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