Whole of France on drought alert, including Paris region

The whole of metropolitan France is now affected by drought after Paris and its suburbs were placed under "vigilance".

Whole of France on drought alert, including Paris region
A banner photographed in June reads « Shortage of drinking water in Groix. Let's be vigilant » at the ferry terminal of Lorient, western France. (Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP)

The entirety of France’s metropolitan départements – all 96 – now have alerts issued for drought, after local authorities for the Paris region placed their départements on alert. There are four levels of drought restrictions, ranging from limits on agricultural usage to bans on non-essential water usage for households.

Prior to Tueday, the départements of Paris and Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Val-de-Marne were the exceptions, but as of August 2nd, they have also been called to employ in water restriction measures after being added to the drought alert list as of August 2nd.

Meanwhile, Essonne, Yvelines, Val d’Oise and Seine-et-Marne départements were already affected by water restrictions. 

River levels have dropped across the country, and the Seine has not been spared. After the flow-rate of the Seine river fell under the threshold of 81 cubic metres per second (m3/s) when passing Austerlitz station on July 25th, the drought alert for Paris itself was triggered. 

The Ile-de-France region is currently on the “vigilance” level, which is the first of the four drought alert levels.

This means that individuals, local authorities and companies are encouraged, but not obliged, by the préfecture to ration their water consumption by avoiding watering green spaces and roads, washing their vehicles and/or limiting their domestic consumption.

READ MORE: MAP: Where are water restrictions in place in France and what do they mean?

The drought is expected to continue as the country prepares for another heat wave. Almost no rain is expected in the next 10 days in France, except for a few showers next Thursday and Friday in the east of the country.

Farmers nationwide are reporting difficulties in feeding livestock because of parched grasslands, while irrigation has been banned in large areas of the northwest and southeast due to freshwater shortages.

On the eastern river Rhine, which runs along the France-Germany border, commercial boats are having to run at a third of their carrying capacity in order to avoid hitting the bottom because the water level is so low.

Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said July’s rainfall represented “just 12 percent of what’s needed”.

“We have a heatwave that increases the need (for water) and a drought that is limiting what is available, pushing us into this vicious cycle,” Bechu told BFM television during a visit to the hard-hit Isere department in the southeast.

Calls to conserve water across the whole of France came after reports that the country saw its driest July on record. In France, there was just 9.7 millimetres of rain last month, Meteo France said.

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Big freeze on the horizon for much of France this weekend

Winter has made its way to France, with below-freezing temperatures expected across much of the country this weekend.

Big freeze on the horizon for much of France this weekend

Cold air from northern Europe will fall over a large part of mainland France, according to French weather forecaster Météo France.

The north of the country, primarily above the horizontal line running from Nantes to Lyon, is expected to see consistent temperatures, “with lows falling to -2C or -3C and highs around 3C until Monday.”

Parts of northern France may also experience snowfall and icy conditions this weekend, starting from Thursday night into Friday.

The départements most likely to be affected are in the country’s centre and east. Some have been placed in the “yellow” warning category, as shown below:

A screenshot from Meteo France, showing départements in the “yellow” warning category for Friday, December 9th

As for the south of France, the maximum average temperature is expected to be around 10C for Friday and to drop to around 7C and 6C for Saturday and Sunday,” Météo France forecaster Florian Hortala told Franceinfo. Though warmer weather will likely be present in Basque country and along the Mediterranean, according to TF1.

Nevertheless – Hortala told Franceinfo that the cold weather is still not chilly enough to constitute a “cold wave,” as temperatures are not low enough below seasonal norms. To be considered a “cold wave” the average national temperature must fall below -2C at least once, and remain under 0.9C for at least three days without going above 2.2C.