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France on heatwave alert and water limits as drought worsens

Water restrictions are in place in 72 departments across France and a red heatwave alert is issued for 15 departments, as the drought worsens, meaning many endangered river fish have needed to be moved.

At the time of writing, 15 departments are on red heatwave (canicule) alert, and 49 are on orange alert. A total of 21 departments are on yellow alert for storms.

The departments on red alert include: Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Aisne, Oise, Val-d’Oise, Marne, Seine-et-Marne, Paris and surroundings, Yvelines, Eure, Seine-Maritime, Essonne, Somme.

The full list of alerts can be seen on the Météo France Vigilance website here.


Drought worsening

The heat has worsened the drought across the country, with 72 departments affected by water restrictions to some degree. This marks a rise of 19 departments from the 53 affected at the end of July.

In the worst-affected departments, water use is only permitted for “priority use” including for drinking, washing, health reasons, and public safety.

The most up-to-date drought map can be seen at government water website Propluvia.

The east of the country is particularly affected, as the River Doubs is especially dry. This has even meant that many of the fish that normally live in the river have been captured, stunned, and transported in large oxygenated tanks before being released in deeper, colder water to ensure their survival.

Gérard Mougin, president of Doubs fishing federation la Fédération de Pêche du Doubs, told news source HuffPost: “If we have more years like this, we will have to collect more and more fish. We must find solutions to protect the fauna and biodiversity.”

The River La Savoureuse in the Territoire de Belfort - which is on a severe drought alert - is also at a record low, with its fish also threatened.

Serge Philemon, president of the fishing federation la Fédération Départementale de Pêche in the Territoire de Belfort, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP): “The time [we have] to intervene is very short. And we need to do it every year now, whereas before we would maybe intervene once every three or four years.”

Carole Begeot, chrono-environment researcher at the Université de Franche-Comté, has warned that the drought is also causing trees to die at an “incredible rate”.

In the Sarthe department (Pays de la Loire), which has been suffering from drought for three weeks, farmer Arnaud Doguet told the AFP: “It’s just dry earth. It hurts my heart to see my cows living in the dust.”

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