Due to a lack of rainfall, underground water tables in Vienne, Poitou-Charentes have not been sufficiently refilled over the winter, leading to fears that there will be water shortages in the future.
Experts from both Météo France and the region’s environment observatory (Ore) said that precipitation was insufficient, water tables are too low and are warning that ever more scarcity of water in future is likely.
Rainfall monitoring expert Rémy Fruchard, director of the Météo France station at Poitiers Biard, said: "In terms of the refill period for the department’s underground water tables in the department, we are experiencing the driest period since 1959."
September 1, 2016 to March 7, 2017 showed just 415.5mm of rainfall against an expected average of 528.7mm. "Even in the wettest areas, such as Poitiers, it is the 7th driest year since 1949," he added.
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Carine Fortin from Ore agreed with the meteorologist’s findings and added underground water tables are at lower than average levels. "It is one of the driest winters,” she said. “But it all depends on the rain to come in the next two to three months. For many rivers, values are close to summer conditions.”
However, despite the low levels of groundwater refill, it does not necessarily mean that the region is going to experience a drought this summer. Mr Fruchard said: "The water table around here is shallow, not very thick. It drains fast but refills just as quickly.
“Last year, the levels were late to refill after an awful spring. Nevertheless, we had restrictions on water use and we need to learn how to manage water."
Behind the statistical evidence of these quasi-empty water tables lies the effect of global warming. "Temperatures in February were 2C higher”, said Mr Fruchard. “And evapotranspiration [the amount of water transferred to the atmosphere, especially through the transpiration of plants] has already begun. We are heading towards an increasing scarcity of water.”