More water in the pipes, dry crops: the government caught up in a historic drought

On the Valensole plateau, where the Ministers of Ecological Transition and Agriculture went on Friday, the lavender that made its reputation was picked up, but large hose reels are regularly placed on the edges of the fields.

More water in the pipes, dry crops: the government caught up in a historic drought

On the Valensole plateau, where the Ministers of Ecological Transition and Agriculture went on Friday, the lavender that made its reputation was picked up, but large hose reels are regularly placed on the edges of the fields. .

Thomas Raso, a young market gardener in Lagrand, in the Hautes-Alpes, came to the Minister with a tray of "black ass" tomatoes, a disease linked to water problems, to alert him to the consequences of the drought in his job.

"Before we knew how to resist one or two years of drought, not anymore", points out the young market gardener.

“The hill reservoirs will not be used, they are not the ones who will make it rain”, underlines Yannick Becker, owner of a horse farm and market gardener, spokesperson for the PACA Peasant Confederation.

Facing them, the Minister for the Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu pleads for "the need to accelerate the transitions".

His Agriculture counterpart, Marc Fesneau, notes: "There are cropping systems that are more resilient given climate change, but to believe that there will be no need for water would be a mistake. quite tragic."

"Imagine the situation we would be in today in this region if it weren't for a number of water retention systems created 40, 50 or 60 years ago," he said. , before precisely visiting a dam in Sainte-Croix du Verdon.

"If we did not have works today as in this region, we would undoubtedly have major problems and not only irrigation", underlined Mr. Fesneau insisting on the "multi-use functions" of the dam which produces both energy (here the annual consumption of a city of more than 51,000 inhabitants), is also used for agricultural irrigation and supplies drinking water.

But this year, the level of the dazzling blue lake on which a few sailboats sailed under a blazing sun, is 5 meters below its summer coast.

On this site, EDF has reduced its electricity production by 60% on this dam, underlined his colleague from the Environment who pleaded for a "reduction in the uses" of water: "The risk would be that we would say to ourselves : it does not matter, to continue as before and not to re-examine our practices, we only have to find alternative methods to not run out of water. And that is lying to people", a- he declared.

- No more water at the tap -

In addition to agriculture, it is first of all the most essential use that worries the government: drinking water.

In more than a hundred small towns in France today, the pipes are empty, indicated Christophe Béchu. This is particularly the case in Castellane, Le Fugeret, Le Castellet and Annot in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. These municipalities are supplied by drinking water trucks, but "the whole issue is to tighten a certain number of restrictions to avoid getting there".

The day marks a turning point in the consideration of this intense climatic phenomenon, with the Prime Minister's serious statements on Friday morning.

Elisabeth Borne worried that this drought - "the most serious ever recorded in our country" - continues, even becomes "even more worrying".

To better coordinate the action of the public authorities, it activated the interministerial crisis unit. These are "technical meetings" which began Friday at the end of the morning, without a decision expected in stride.

The crisis has been simmering for months in certain regions where drought decrees have multiplied since the spring, due to lack of rain.

93 departments in mainland France out of 96 are already subject to water restrictions to varying degrees and 66, or around two-thirds of the country, are "in crisis".

- Water sharing -

July 2022 was the second driest month ever recorded in France, after March 1961, with a rainfall deficit of around 84% compared to normal for the period 1991-2020.

On Friday, heat-related power outages affected part of the city of Lyon and some neighboring towns.

"We are on a major event, which can easily be compared to 1976 or 2003", commented Jean-Michel Soubeyroux, climatologist at Météo-France. With in addition a "record drought situation for soil moisture since July 17 at the national level".

Consequence: with more than 47,000 hectares burned since the beginning of the year, France experienced a record number of burned areas in July, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Essential sectors are also hard hit, such as agriculture, whether it is corn intended for animal feed, which is very water-intensive, or the lack of pasture for livestock.

The question of sharing the uses of water agitates the political class. LFI MP Mathilde Panot claimed on Twitter a right to water "enshrined in the Constitution".

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