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France declares drought in 24 departments with 92 water rules in place

Water restrictions include a ban on watering gardens and washing cars at certain times

A watering hose being used to water flowers in a garden

Watering gardens and washing cars are among the first things to be banned when a department goes into drought Pic: David Calvert / Shutterstock

A total of 24 departments in France have officially been declared in drought conditions, with water restrictions now in place in many areas.

The heat and lack of rain in recent days, and dry weather conditions forecast for the next week, have not helped. 

Ecology Ministry website Propluvia confirmed that today (May 29), 24 departments crossed over the alert threshold for drought, and have water restrictions in force. On May 11, the number was just 14. 

Today, 92 decrees on water usage have been put in place by prefectures, which concern individuals as well as farmers and agricultural workers.

Vendée, Vienne and Loiret are on the highest “crisis” level. 

The levels, as used by Propluvia, and restrictions in place, are: 

  • Vigilance: Individuals and professionals are informed and encouraged to save water.

  • Alert: Reduction of water use for agricultural purposes by less than 50% (or a ban of up to 3 days per week), ban on water sports activities, watering gardens, green spaces, washing cars at certain times.

  • Reinforced alert: Reduction of water use for agricultural purposes by more than 50% (or a ban of more than 3.5 days per week), ban on watering gardens, green spaces, and washing cars.

  • Crisis: Ban on all non-priority use, including for agricultural purposes. Only priority uses are authorised (such as health, civil security, drinking water, and sanitation).

The full list of departments on alert today: 

Tarn, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Dordogne, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Drôme, Ardèche, Ille-et-Vilaine, Sarthe, Maine-et-Loire, Loire-Atlantique, Vienne, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée, Charente-Maritime, Charente, Loiret, Yonne, Haute-Savoie and Ain.

Prime Minister (and former Ecology Minister) Elisabeth Borne visited Loiret on Thursday (May 26), and said that €400million in government aid was being allocated to "farmers who, due to the drought, may have difficulties with animal feed". 

The Ecology Ministry uses a three-level metric to ascertain the level of drought risk: “possible, probable, and very probable”.

On May 18, it published a map of the latest data showing which areas were at risk of suffering a drought before the end of summer 2022.

Map: Gouvernement.fr

"The map shows that the summer of 2022 could be marked by low water levels or significant drops in the water table throughout the country,” said national water monitoring committee the Comité d'anticipation et de suivi hydrologique (CASH).

Water tables nationwide are currently very low, due to relatively low levels of rain in autumn and winter 2021, when the water tables usually replenish for the summer ahead.

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Almost everywhere in France set to be hit by drought this summer
Water restrictions in place: how bad is the drought risk in France? 
Climate change in France: People 'do not understand what's coming'  

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