How do I see if any drought rules are affecting my French home?

Restrictions can greatly impact the use of water

Drought rules are frequently updated depending upon its severity

Reader Question: We own a second home in Hérault and heard there are already drought warnings in place. Can we find out what the rules are in our commune easily? We want to fill our pool up before it is too late. 

You are correct that there are now some communes in the Hérault department at higher drought warning levels due to low groundwater levels. 

Read more: Crisis level for drought already in place in areas of south of France

Drought restrictions in France come in four levels, in ascending order:

  • Vigilance: people are warned about water usage and asked to be mindful of consumption

  • Alerte: Using water for certain activities (filling swimming pools, watering plants, cleaning cars etc) may be restricted at certain times of day. Restrictions may also be imposed on local councils over water use (such as for fountains, watering gardens and golf courses)

  • Alerte renforcée: The above restrictions become stricter 

  • Crise: All non-priority water use is banned, with water only being available for drinking, washing, other hygiene uses, or for communal health and civil security purposes. 

However, the exact restrictions that come into force at the alerte and alerte renforcée are decided at a communal level, meaning they can change even within departments. 

These are frequently updated depending on the severity of drought conditions. 

Last year, the government launched the VigiEau website which includes both a map of where restrictions are in place and a search function to find restrictions in your commune. 

You can use the bar at the top to write in an address, then will see a list of the current restrictions in that commune.

Will I be banned from filling up my pool? 

Generally, filling up a pool is banned from the alerte level onwards unless it is being filled for the very first time after construction (as this is a sanitary issue). 

However ‘topping up’ a pool that has already been filled earlier in the year is usually allowed at both the alerte and alerte renforcée levels, but banned when warnings reach the crise level. 

Read more: France drought rules: Do they stop me topping up my swimming pool?

Read more:  Stop stigmatising us during droughts, say pool owners in France

You should still check with your mairie before topping up a pool as fines can reach up to €1,500 even for a one-time offence. 

Rural police officers and workers from both the Directions Départementales des Territoires and the Office français de la biodiversité conduct checks that rules are being followed in areas with high restriction levels.

Read more: How do French authorities check people are not breaking drought rules?

Most of the time, they simply inform people that they are breaking rules but they do have the power to issue fines.