As soon as water restrictions are imposed notices explaining them should be sent by the local préfecture to the mayors, who are responsible for ensuring they are posted on the mairie’s official notice board.
It is in theory a civic responsibility to read the mairie’s notice board – although few people do.
Opening hours of mairies in small communes are also often limited to a couple of half days in the week, so it might take some days before the notice is posted, although the restrictions are in effect as soon as the prefect signs the order. This is particularly the case during holiday periods when mairies are sometimes closed for weeks at a time.
The restrictions may be in dense legal language and often refer to river capture basins not to communes, so you might have to ask in the mairie if your property is affected, and the mairie might have to call the prefecture to find out.
Mairies often issue special municipal bulletins, or put notices in letter boxes when restrictions are in force, although this cannot be relied on. Some have websites and put the information up there too.
You can also find out about water restrictions in force at the Propluvia website. Click on the map of France in your area to zoom down to find local details.
Similarly, every prefecture now has its own dedicated web-site which uses the format: insertnameofthedepartement.gouv.fr and all decrees from the prefect affecting residents should be posted on it as soon as they come into force.
A quick search shows though that not all préfectures are diligent in keeping websites up to date, so this cannot always be relied on.
An example of a website, that of Loiret département, which gives details of water restrictions imposed on the 29th of May, can be found here.
It includes a general notice explaining the restrictions and a link to a copy of the actual decree.
Your best bet is to watch local television, listen to local radio and to buy local newspapers, as they usually have regular briefings at the prefecture which include things like water restrictions.
Punishments for people who break water restrictions are usually fixed by the prefect, as fines in the fifth category of fines. This gives a maximum fine of €1,500 for a first offence, rising to €3,000 for repeated offences. Actual fines are usually much lower than the maximum.
Offences which fall under environmental legislation, which include pumping water from rivers and so destroying water environments, fall under the code de l’environnement and can go up to a maximum of €75,000.
Fines can be issued by sworn officers of the state, who include policemen, gendarmes, some firemen, and forestry and hunt control officers, as well as the maire of the commune and some other elected officials.
If the person being fined wants to contest the fine, they have to take the matter to court themselves.
Usually fines are only imposed after repeated warnings are ignored.
If people want to contest the prefect's decision to impose restrictions, they can write directly to him or her giving their reasons, and, if not happy with the response, then go up the chain and write to the ministry of the environment.
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