Key questions answered on France’s new drought risk map

Drought is ‘very probable’ in nearly 30 French departments this summer, according to a new government map

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Last week France unveiled a new drought risk map, showing the 28 departments most susceptible this summer.

The map has three new categories to assess potential drought levels for each French department.

Alongside this, drought restriction guidelines have been updated and centralised, with a tougher stance on wasting water.

This will allow authorities on a departmental level to tackle drought conditions, with the government hoping a unified response will help minimise issues.

Despite the introduction of the map, there is some confusion over whether it has replaced the previous drought restriction map, and what it means for residents in the areas where droughts are expected this year.

Here we answer a number of questions related to the map.

What are the new drought risk categories?

French departments fall into one of three categories. These are yellow (where a drought is possible), orange (where one is probably) and red (where a drought is very probable).

It must be noted that these do not replace the already existing drought map showing which departments are already under restrictions, but work alongside the existing map.

Unlike the existing one, the drought risk map does not get split into communal areas, and instead only provides a prediction for the upcoming summer.

Read also: Firefighters forced to get water from sea in drought-hit south France

Which departments are in the high-risk category?

There are 28 departments placed in the ‘very probable’ category for this summer.

The majority of these are in the south-east of the country, although there are some dotted around elsewhere.

The departments in this category are:

Haute-Corse, Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Ain, Isère, Drôme, Ardèche, Gard, Lozère, Hérault, Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales, Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, Vienne, Deux-Sèvres, Loiret, Seine-et-Marne, Marne, Oise, Val-d’Oise, Yvelines and Essonne.

The departments in the lowest ‘yellow’ category are situated mostly in the west and east of France, close to bodies of water such as the Rhine or the Atlantic Ocean, or greater Paris.

These are:

Finistère, Côtes-d’Armor, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine, Loire-Atlantique, Manche, Mayenne, Calvados, Paris, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Hauts-de-Seine, Ardennes, Meuse, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Vosges, Haut-Marne, Côte-d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Jura, Doubs, Gironde

All other departments are in the middle ‘probable’ category.

Below, you can see the map:

Made with Flourish

Who is behind the map?

The map was announced last week by the Minister for Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu.

The map was compiled using data from a number of sources including France’s geological research bureau, the Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM), the French office for biodiversity, Office français de la biodiversité, the Aqui-FR project, which maps hydro-geological systems across France, and the country’s meteorological agency Météo France.

The BRGM said on May 1 that 68% of France’s groundwater stores were below average levels.

Read also: France will soon roll out a ‘wildfire risk map’. How will it work?

How often will it be updated?

As of now, it seems like the map is a one-off for the summer of 2023, and unlike the drought restrictions map, will not be regularly updated.

Mr Béchu said in a tweet that the map is a “projection for the end of summer risks”, and did not give any indication it would be changed.

Do I need to do anything?

The map is a predictive one for the summer months, and unlike its drought restriction counterpart, does not come with any rules regarding water usage in certain areas.

To find out where actual restrictions apply, you will need to consult the drought restrictions map, which The Connexion updates weekly here.

Despite the different categories on the risk map, it conveys no information on rules for what people living under each must (or even should) do.

For those in areas where droughts are very probable, measures can be taken to start limiting water usage, either at an individual or communal level (if not already forced to do so by drought restrictions).

If you live in one of these areas, you should start to be more mindful of water consumption, and make sure you are prepared for the event that drought restrictions are announced (i.e by topping up swimming pools in advance, installing rainwater collecting devices, or checking for leaks and holes in pipes where possible).

Read also: Practical tips for buying rainwater collector as sales surge in France

How helpful is the map?

There is confusion over the necessity of the map and how it relates to the drought restriction map that comes with changes to those living in affected areas.

The map does not come with any authority to implement restrictions on a department-wide basis (this is still done through the old map), nor does it seem like it will be updated regularly, leading some to think it is an empty gesture that changes nothing, and simply confirms what most people already know – that the south of the country is expected to face intense drought conditions this year.

Indeed, other than Mr Béchu announcing the map on Twitter, little follow up information was given, and realistically, all practical information is still to be found through the other drought restrictions map.

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