France is experiencing an unprecedented situation of groundwater drought this summer with all of its departments affected by water restrictions.
These prohibitions can lead to incivil behavior, such as the theft of water or the damage to reserves.
While water is a vital resource, it is essential that there is general awareness of the fact that it is not inexhaustible, and urgent to adapt our use for the decades to come.
France is dry and the scarcity of water in certain territories leads to incivility.
Some 400 m3 of water intended for firefighting were stolen from a retention basin in Ardèche, a department in "reinforced vigilance" drought, reported
on August 4th.
At the end of July, jacuzzis were gutted in Gérardmer in the Vosges, with a note for the owners: "water is made for drinking"
Two water reserves for agriculture were deliberately damaged, without loss of water, in Vendée during the night of Monday to Tuesday.
Fields are irrigated despite bans, private swimming pools difficult to control despite imposed water restrictions… So, has the water war started in France?
Will it take place?
No war, but tensions
Not as we imagine, not as it already exists in certain regions of the world, such as in the Middle East and North Africa where “some villages compete with others to survive, to have access to water” , estimates with
Franck Galland, associate researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS).
Even if "the question of water ownership is already a war on a global scale", France remains fairly protected by this issue, given its resources, adds Amandine Richaud-Crambes, urban environmental engineer, contacted by
Our dossier on drought
Nevertheless, “if 'war' is a big word, when there is a shortage, yes it creates tensions”, agrees Abou Amani, Director of the Water Sciences Division at UNESCO.
Especially since with climate change "things will start to be more and more difficult, we have to prepare for it and raise awareness among the population", he adds to
Indeed, this historic drought, the most important since 1959 (when the measurements began), highlights the notion that water is not an inexhaustible resource, whereas it is vital.
"While people think that water is an asset and in abundance, we have neglected its value, water is a precious good, which we must know how to manage and share well, also thinking of future generations", sums up Abu Amani.
Anticipation and awareness
The current situation in France is certainly complicated, but above all, was not anticipated.
"It's a nice reminder that you have to adapt to extreme and long drought situations", points out Franck Galland.
And this is one of the aspects of water use that needs to be improved in France.
This drought situation had been known for several months, there are tools that allow us to detect the trend of the situation to come, "we must then take action upstream to avoid being taken aback", as was the case today, judge Abou Amani.
Not to mention anticipated restrictions on the use of water, "the uncertainty of the forecasts does not prevent taking measures as a precautionary principle".
Among them, raising public awareness is a key solution.
“There needs to be general awareness” and for that, “people who use the same resource need to understand the priorities, such as hygiene, health, safety;
for example that water is needed in the fire hydrants”, illustrates Abou Amani.
This will go through the education of the inhabitants, from “7 to 77 years old” if necessary, for Franck Galland who lists several basics: taking a shower rather than a bath, turning off the water when brushing your teeth… But according to him, we can also encourage households to choose domestic equipment that is “less water-intensive”.
"We must encourage people to consume less water, knowing that the average daily consumption of a French person is 149 liters of drinking water per day,
We need a general mobilization.
Because water, everyone needs it, without exception.
"There's no one in the world who doesn't have to go to the water twice a day," says Abou Amani.
We have a direct relationship with water every day and we must all make efforts to change our way of being and consider this resource together”.
And if it doesn't work, should we check more and therefore sanction?
It is indeed a solution, “like for road safety, replies Franck Galland.
If you do not control, there are deaths”.
The researcher associated with the FRS thus recalls that the law has been toughened in terms of water theft, and more particularly with regard to the unauthorized opening of fire hydrants.
A phenomenon called "street-pooling" which was very widespread, especially during the 2015 heat wave in Ile-de-France, then in 2017, when 500 water hydrants were vandalized in a single day in the region, causing the loss of 150,000 cubic meters of water.
Last February, the government created a new offense to combat this phenomenon which gives firefighters cold sweats.
"The fact of proceeding, without legitimate reason, to the opening of a fire water point having the effect of causing a flow of water is punished by a fine provided for contraventions of the 4th class", provides thus article R644-6.
From now on, we must also make better use of the water we have available.
Recover gray water, ie waste water that is recycled, instead of pouring it into the rivers.
"It must be reinjected into a closed circuit, as exists in Israel or Singapore," advises Franck Galland.
Today, only 0.6% of our wastewater is recycled, compared to 8% in Italy and 14% in Spain, according to the International Office for Water (OIE).
“We have a lot to learn from semi-arid countries that adapted earlier than us,” adds the specialist.
This treated water, instead of being sent to the sea, and "lost", could be used for agricultural production, watering golf greens... "It will be urgent to learn from this drought and to take the right technological decisions.
Because, if we have the technology to treat this water, we do not yet have the infrastructure, ”sums up Franck Galland, predicting that in twenty years, this will undoubtedly be the case.
Hoping that politicians hear the urgency.
In 2019, reports the OIE, the government planned to triple the volumes of this reused water by 2025, resulting in the recovery of only 1.8% of treated wastewater.
Still far from the 14% observed in Spain.
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