‘No problem’: local feedback in France on 150-litre daily water limit

In nine communes in Var in the south of the country, residents are limited to 200 litres per person per day

France is facing a serious drought crisis with water restrictions in place around the country
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Residents living in areas of southern France where water use has been limited to 200 litres per day per person have generally reported not noticing the difference.

Local authorities in nine communes in the southern department of Var have decided to impose the limits in light of a drought crisis that means water reserves are running low.

The decision was taken last week by the mairies of the collection of communes called the Pays de Fayence, made up of the communes:

  • Bagnols-en-Forêt
  • Callian
  • Fayence
  • Mons
  • Montauroux
  • Saint-Paul-en-Forêt
  • Seillans
  • Tanneron
  • Tourrettes

The 200-litre per day limit, which in some neighbourhoods of Seillans is capped at 150 litres, is based on a 2020 study by the Observatoire des services publics d’eau that shows that the average person in France uses around 149 litres of fresh water per day.

“The 200-litre limit is high enough in comparison to our daily consumption,” said Anthony Massiera, a 38-year-old gardener who lives in Tourrettes.

He said that in his four-person household, the average daily water usage is 600 litres, equal to 150 litres per person.

Read more: French drought measures: How much water do household appliances use?

Mr Massiera added that the restriction felt even more manageable as his property has a 12-metre-deep well. He also said that his garden does not require much upkeep.

Read more: How are French authorities informing people of water restrictions?

Jean-Marc Robart, a retired farmer who lives in nearby Le Muy, which is not one of the communes subject to the limitations, said he was not concerned about any such measure being brought in by his mairie.

“I have been restricting my water use for 46 years already,” he said.

He added that he has a well and four water tanks located on his remote property.

Despite not feeling affected by water restrictions, he said he had noticed the effects of drought on the environment.

“I noticed that the cicadas arrived in mid-May and left around the beginning of August, a month earlier than expected due to the extreme drought,” he said.

Pierre Mouret, a 57-year-old psychiatrist living in another Var commune, Flayosc, said he was worried about nearby lakes drying up.

“I have never seen the levels this low in my life,” he said, referring to the Lac de Serre-Ponçon and the Lac de Sainte-Croix.

But he said that in discussions with fellow psychiatrists living in Hyères, the issue of water restrictions never comes up as it does not affect them.

He did say that he had stopped going to local golf clubs after he learned they were still watering their greens.

“It makes no sense,” he said.

Crackdown on rule breakers

Bernard Henry, the mayor of Fayence, one of the communes where the limit is in place, posted a statement on Facebook on July 27 saying that the commune would crack down on people breaking the 200-litre limit.

Those who do break the rules risk a fine of €1,500, rising to €3,000 for repeat offences.

“We are going to step up checks on [people’s] daily or weekly [water] consumption by targeted or random metre readings and we will apply the law and the fine to its full extent,” he wrote.

He said that people caught breaking the limit could have a ‘pastille’ installed in their houses, which is a type of filter that can reduce water flow.

Read more: French homes subject to drought rule checks

Mr Massiera said he witnessed several helicopters flying over the region and says he suspects they are being used to monitor swimming-pools or spot gardens with suspiciously lush green grass.

The mairie of Draguignan in Var reported receiving calls from people reporting their neighbours' excessive water use.

Another person who The Connexion spoke to, who lives in Alpes-Maritimes, neighbouring Var, said he knew of several people who had received calls from the Office français de la biodiversité (OFB) asking them to lower their water consumption.

He said that these people all had swimming pools.

The OFB has said that it has carried out 4,000 checks related to drought restriction rules since May.

Of these checks, 400 have resulted in ‘procedures’, which could be anything from an official warning to a fine.

Many of the checks are likely to have been on larger-scale businesses, factories or farms, but many others were related to private homes.

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