Map: The 28 French departments at high risk of drought this summer

Official guidelines on how water restrictions should be applied have also been updated

Very dry, cracked land with only one dry plant
The map from the ecological transition minister is colour-coded to show the predicted drought risk this summer
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Twenty-eight French departments have been officially identified as being at a ‘very probable’ risk of drought this summer.

The government has also announced updated guidelines on how water restrictions should apply.

Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu this week published a map that divides the country’s departments into three categories, depending on their level of predicted risk in summer 2023.

The majority of the country (68%) has worryingly low levels of groundwater, the ministry said, as of May 1 - despite the heavy rain seen in some parts of the country over the past few weeks. It based its predictions on figures from the geological research centre, le Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM).

Read also: What impact will May rain have on France’s water deficit?

The map shows 28 departments at ‘very probable’ risk of drought.

  • Most of the areas at the highest risk are concentrated in the south and southeast
  • The western departments of Vienne and Deux-Sevres are also shown in red
  • A ring circling the Greater Paris and surrounding region (but not inner Paris or its immediate neighbours), plus Loiret and Marne, are also at risk
  • Haute-Corse is also in red, while Corse-du-Sud is on orange

The map’s aim is to help the country “anticipate the risks” and prepare for the summer season in advance.

Most mainland departments are coloured orange, meaning that they are facing ‘probable’ drought. The departments in yellow, at ‘possible’ risk, include those in Brittany, Normandy and Grand-Est. The department of Gironde is also a yellow island in a sea of orange.

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

The government has also outlined 10 measures as part of a new ‘drought guide’.

These are:

  • No topping up of swimming pools - Only ‘the first fill up’ is authorised, but even that is banned if your department is on ‘crisis’ level
  • No filling of public pools - Banned on ‘heightened alert’ level
  • Car washing - Banned from ‘alert’ level. Public car washes with ‘economy lanes’ may be used, except on ‘crisis’ alert level.
  • Sports grounds - Grounds necessary for competition can no longer be watered during the day on ‘crisis’ level, except grounds that are needed for national or international tournaments. These can be watered on a ‘reduced scale’ from 09:00 to 20:00. 
  • Golf courses - On ‘crisis’ alert, golf courses may continue watering their greens, but only to the level of ‘350m/3 per week maximum, for nine holes’, and an 80% reduction in water use.
  • Lawns and green spaces - Watering banned from 11:00 to 18:00 at ‘heightened alert’ or ‘crisis’ level, except for newly-planted shrubs
  • Vegetable patch - Banned from 11:00 to 18:00 on ‘heightened alert’. Banned from 09:00 to 20:00 for ‘crisis’ level.
  • Farming irrigation - On ‘alert’ level, farmers cannot water their fields from 11:00 to 18:00. On ‘heightened alert’, from 09:00 to 20:00. For ‘crisis’ level, watering is banned.
  • Areas of water - Refilling banned except in the case of police permission for commercial use. 
  • Roofs, pavements, facades - Banned at all levels of alert, except if done by a professional cleaning company.
  • It comes as many parts of the country were already on drought alert and heightened water restrictions.

    To understand the alert levels and check what applies in your area of France see our following article: How bad is the drought in France? See restrictions in your department.
    Mr Béchu said that the ‘drought guide’ is an update of the first version, which was published in 2021, and would end the previous situation “in which each area sort of organised themselves however they wanted”.

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