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France drought: checks find hundreds breaking water usage rules

6,000 checks have been carried out this year and will continue into autumn. Those breaking rules risk fines of up to €1,500 (€7,500 for businesses)

78 communes are facing severe water usage restrictions, which include a ban on filling pools Pic: sergua / Shutterstock

Thousands of home and business water usage checks have been undertaken - and will continue - in France into the autumn as the country faces increasingly difficult drought conditions.

The Office Français de la Biodiversité (French Office for Biodiversity, or OFB), one of the groups which conducts water controls, has published figures today (August 18) on checks carried out this year.

“To date, the OFB has carried out nearly 6,000 inspections relating to quantitative water management measures throughout France, 90% of which concerned drought decrees issued by prefects in the departments,” said the report.

1,000 inspections were carried out by the group between July 3 and July 10 alone.

Residents and businesses were found to be breaking drought restrictions in 7% of all checks undertaken since January. These included “prohibited irrigation, exceeding authorised flow rates, watering, unauthorised hours and swimming pools,” said the OFB. 

It added that checks would continue to take place “until at least autumn… as long as drought restrictions are in place.” 

It also reminded people that fines for breaking water restrictions during a drought can reach up to €1,500 (€3,000 for repeat offenders) and €7,500 for businesses. 

78 communes facing severe restrictions 

The current heatwave will do nothing to ease France’s struggle with water shortages, with 72% of groundwater levels below summer averages as of August 1. 

In around 100 communes fresh drinking water is unavailable, with water being delivered via tankers or by using bottles. 

Read more: Summer rain has not helped France’s low groundwater levels - minister

By mid-August, 78 communes in France were facing severe restrictions on water usage, including filling swimming pools, watering plants, cleaning cars and outside spaces, and even irrigating crops. 

Out of these 78 communes, 40 were at the highest ‘crisis’ level, facing the most severe restrictions. 

You can use the government’s new Vigie Eau website to check restrictions in your area, by putting your address in the search bar. 

Read more: New website tells you the water restrictions in your part of France

It is in areas facing the toughest restrictions that the OFB conducts most of its checks on water usage. 

“The various controls carried out by OFB agents are placed under the authority of the prefects, who identify the types of water use and the geographical sectors of the department to be prioritised.

“Depending on the sector, they may concern private individuals, farmers, businesses and / or local authorities,” said an OFB spokesperson. 

Related articles: 

French town’s drought ‘solution’: painting its dried-out grass green!

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