With rainfall 36% lower than average during the winter, the local prefecture has had to impose new restrictions aimed at saving water, and watering lawns, crops, gardens and sports fields is now banned between 10am and 6pm. This is on top of measures in place since January, including a ban on washing vehicles, buildings and roads; the closure of public fountains, and the reduction of river flows to increase the stock in dams.
Departmental environment director Pierre Bessin told Le Monde: “The situation is absolutely exceptional. It is probably the most severe drought known in [our] history. Even the years 1976 and 1990, which serve as references, did not have such a shortage of rainfall. Normally, the months of September and October allow the groundwater to recharge. But this year, only 320mm of water fell during this period, 36% less than normal. Because of its geology of fractured rocks, the subsoil of Brittany contains few sheets of rock and these are not deep. It is the reverse of the Paris basin, where the reserves are immense.”
Mr Bessin explained that the consequences of the drought are not yet visible, but that farmers are likely to be particularly affected in the coming months. “The risk is real if the dry weather continues because the grass will not grow enough. Local industries also risk running out of water. In Brittany, these two sectors have a habit of tapping into private drilling. Once exhausted, they could suddenly turn to the drinking water system.”
The four dams that provide water to the majority of the department are currently full because the effort has been made to build sufficient stocks for the summer, and this explains the low level of the rivers.
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“We are in the emergency stage,” said Mr Besson. “Preventive measures were put in place in January by the drought committee.
“The additional restrictions are quite simple to implement. Although the population of Brittany is generally very sensitive to water-related problems, there is still some awareness-raising work to be carried out in certain communes. All these measures are not extraordinary, they have existed since 1992 with the law on water. As for the date of their lifting, we can not decide for the moment, it will be dictated by the weather.”