Desalination, pumping of lakes, tank trucks… how municipalities are adapting to the shortage of drinking water

Between restrictions and concerns, France is facing a new heatwave episode, the third since June. Temperatures are close to 40°C in the South-West and the drought is more marked every day. The floors are “even drier than they were on the same date in 1976 and in 2003”according to Météo-France, which fears that “the absolute record for surface soil drought, which dates from 2003, has been broken”.

Drought in France: the water war is declared

On a global scale, according to the UN, the world has 1.5 to 2 billion people living in regions where water is lacking at least for part of the year. Climate change promises to worsen the situation: with each additional degree, half a billion people will lose 20% of their fresh water, predicts the group of UN experts on climate (IPCC).

Faced with the risk of water shortage, towns and villages in France are trying to adapt. This summer is a test for many municipalities which are implementing solutions, in addition to restrictive measures, to hold out until the next rains.

  • Seawater desalination unit in Corsica

The village of Rogliano in Haute-Corse, located at the tip of Cap Corse, which includes the marina of Macinaggio, very popular with tourists, has had restrictions on the use of water since 1er April, opted for the acquisition of a desalination unit. A first in the Island of Beauty. The plant must be able to produce 500 cubic meters of drinking water per day and must start operating at the start of the school year, around September 10, Patrice Quicili, mayor of the village, told AFP.

In the meantime, it relies on the drinking water reservoir with a capacity of 48,000 m3but whose level on August 1 was 16,500 m3 (i.e. 15 days of reserve according to the mayor), while the population increases from 650 inhabitants in winter to 6,000 in summer. The cost of this desalination unit reaches 1 million and 50,000 euros, partly paid for by the State and the Community of Corsica. It must operate until December before being put back into service next year. “40 minutes from the port of Macinaggio, the Italian island of Capraia has been operating for ten years with a desalination plant, they are autonomous all year round and no longer have any problems”argued the mayor.

Water shortage: in Seillans, every drop counts

In France, the Breton island of Sein has a desalination plant and a project is being studied on the island of Groix, also in Brittany. Île-Molène in Finistère also uses seawater. The unit, installed in early July, provides 60% of the island’s daily water consumption, reports LCI. For this, it sucks up three liters of sea water to obtain one liter of fresh water.

Desalination plants are increasingly present in the world. However, this solution is not ideal for the climate. A study by UN University researchers in Canada, the Netherlands and South Korea, published in 2019, showed that the 16,000 desalination plants installed worldwide, which produce nearly 100 million cubic meters of desalinated water per day, create more toxic waste than water.

  • Gérardmer draws from its lake

Victim of a drought of exceptional magnitude and earliness, this resort in the Vosges, another top holiday resort, is forced to draw water from its famous lake. An extremely rare but not unprecedented measure: Gérardmer already had to fetch water from his lake for a few days in 2015 and 2020, and more significantly in 2003. 120 m3 of water is pumped out every hour, before being carefully analyzed to be declared fit for consumption. As a precaution, water from the public network was declared undrinkable for at least 48 hours on Wednesday.

At the same time, a municipal decree was issued at the end of July to put in place restrictive measures. On the beaches of the lake, the public showers have been closed. And on the shores, residents and vacationers are prohibited from filling swimming pools and spas. “Just because you can see the huge body of water that is the lake doesn’t mean there aren’t water problems”, explains the mayor (PS) Stessy Speissmann. Here, it was the successive waves of heat waves and the meager rainfall that got the better of the springs and the water table of Ramberchamp which usually supply the city. Their levels “are at their lowest today”, “insufficient to pump into”explains the mayor.

Pumping water from a lake is also the solution that was found in Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas (Haute-Loire). In order to water the 1,300 cattle in the town, an authorization to pump into Lac du Bouchet was granted, reports the “JDD”.

  • Montbrison has tanks transported

Between Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand, the fall in the level of drinking water in the water towers has led the urban area of ​​Montbrison (Loire) to have cisterns transported for the benefit of several municipalities located at altitude, representing a total population of nearly 4,000 people. Eight 30 m cisterns3 have been ordered.

Battle for water in Lot-et-Garonne: “You’ll piss us off less when you’re at the bottom of the lake!” »

The use of cisterns is the most common and simplest solution. Already in July, in Franche-Comté, several communes of the Doubs, which no longer had drinking water, were supplied by tank trucks. In the Var, in Seillans, a tank truck makes daily rotations to fill the reservoir on which the municipality depends and delivers about 7,500 liters of water on each trip. If this solution is nothing new in municipalities accustomed to high heat and dry spells, its use is unprecedented in its duration.

  • Transforming wastewater into drinking water in Les Sables-d’Olonne

Unfortunately the project is not finished yet, but it is starting! The first stone of the future refining unit of the Jourdain program, a pioneering project for the use of treated wastewater for domestic purposes, was put in place at the beginning of July in Les Sables d’Olonne, in Vendée. From 2023, this unit will receive treated wastewater from the Sables d’Olonne wastewater treatment plant, currently discharged into the ocean after treatment.

After passing through the Jourdain program treatment unit, the water will be routed over 25 km of pipeline to the Jaunay dam, discharged into a vegetated area where it will mix with the river and transit to the water plant. drinking water supplying the west of Vendée, i.e. 100,000 households and two to three times more in summer.

The unit could see its capacity increase at the end of the experimental stage, which will end in 2027. In France, less than 1% of wastewater is recycled today, compared to 15% in Spain and 90% in Israel, says Veolia. A project that could allow France to catch up a bit.

Leave a Comment