More ‘crisis’ level drought alerts in France, water reserves stay low

Residents are asked to check if and what restrictions apply to them

Extreme summer temperatures continuing into autumn have only worsened France’s drought difficulties
Published Last updated

Summer may have (officially) ended but drought restrictions are still very much present across France - and in fact increasing to ‘red crisis level’ in some areas.

In several departments, warning levels are still being raised as the record-breaking temperatures are doing little to help with France’s ongoing drought crisis.

In the Var in the south, a number of communes saw their alert levels heightened at the end of September. Nine communes were placed on the highest drought ‘crisis’ level.

It means that out of 153 communes in the department, over 90 now face a red-level warning, with dozens more at a ‘reinforced alert’ level.

Officials are urging residents across France to check whether restrictions still apply to them as the typically replenishing autumn rains have yet to arrive.

Drought ‘crisis’ in the south

The Var is not the only department facing red warnings. Dozens of departments in the south have at least one commune facing a ‘crisis’ warning, which severely restricts water usage.

As a reminder, there are four levels of restrictions – vigilance, alert, reinforced alert, and crisis.

Each level comes with restrictions on water usage, ranging from filling swimming pools to watering gardens.

At crisis level, complete bans on excess water usage could be brought into force.

You can find the restrictions in your area using the government’s VigiEau website.

The search bar at the top allows you to write in the name of your commune or your address, and will show you the current restrictions in place in your area for water usage.

Read more: Website tells you the water restrictions in your part of France

Groundwater levels still far below average

France’s water reserves are still far lower than usual despite improvements in some parts over summer with rainfall partially replenishing underground water tables,

Over 60% of French water tables are currently below their average levels, said the Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (Office for geological and mineral research, or BRGM) in their most recent report.

With the exception of Brittany, Normandy and certain northern river basins, groundwater levels are lower than seasonal averages across the board – and with autumn rainfall yet to come, this could only get worse.

“Low water levels in 2023 are likely to be particularly severe in the Rhône-Saône corridor and around the Mediterranean,” said the BRGM.

You can read their full September report in English here.

In the Pyrénées-Orientales department, rainfall in eight of the nine months this year was below average levels.

“In September, nearly 30 millimetres less than normal fell, the equivalent of 40% less rain,” said a climate expert from Météo France.

In areas still at crisis level, water restrictions could last well into autumn, and possibly into winter.

Related articles:

15 new French communes declared as 2022 drought natural disaster zones

Part of Brittany put on drought alert, residents asked to save water