When they turn on the tap on this Saturday in July, the inhabitants of the small village ofOllieres, in the Var hinterland, find murky, muddy water. After checking the drilling, the verdict falls: the water table is dry. Rather than picking up clear water, the pump sucks up the bottom of the aquifer, along with sand and sediment. The mayor of the town then decides to cut off the drinking water supply, and the inhabitants also find themselves dry.
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In an emergency, a drinking water distribution system was then improvised. “In three hours, the 700 inhabitants were supplied with bottles”, tells franceinfo the mayor, Arnaud Fauquet-Lemaitre. Running water was eventually restored the day after the incident, which occurred on July 16, thanks to a tanker truck that came to fill the tanks from neighboring towns. Water immediately declared “unfit for human consumption”, the mud of the day before having soiled the water tower and the pipes. In the alleys of the village, a voice amplified by a megaphone warns the inhabitants: ban on drinking tap water. In the meantime, elected officials, city hall officials and volunteers continue to take turns to distribute the bottles.
In this municipality, restrictions were immediately decided after the cut which occurred in mid-July, such as the prohibition to fill its swimming pool or to water its garden. It took 15 days for the water table to recharge, and drinking water was restored on July 29. But the mayor remains worried: “If we don’t reduce our water consumption, in one, two or three weeks we will find ourselves in the same situation.” The elected official makes the link between what his municipality is experiencing and the rainfall deficit observed in recent months. “This winter, it didn’t rain in our beautiful region and it didn’t snow much in the Alps”, relates Arnaud Fauquet-Lemaitre. “We can easily reach an average rainfall deficit of 50% in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.“, confirms Annick Mièvre, director of the Paca-Corsica delegation of the water agency, interviewed by France 3.
In the Var, Ollières is far from being the only town to suffer from the drought. 60 km away as the crow flies, the inhabitants of Bargemon were also temporarily deprived of drinking water. In the nearby village of Seillans, water consumption was limited to 200 liters per day and per person. And the phenomenon is not limited to the south of France.
Drôme, Finistère, Haute-Saône, Dordogne, Vosges… Almost everywhere, water cuts have been reported. France faced the driest July on record, according to data from Weather report France. Since August 2, all departments in France have been affected by restrictions on the use of water.
In the Creuse, Thursday July 28, the inhabitants of Bord-Saint-Georges were surprised to see only a trickle of water flowing from the tap. Regions renowned for their wet climate, such as Brittany, are also facing difficulties. In Brasparts, in Finistère, water cuts were observed, as reported West France. In Gérardmer, in the Vosges, the authorities have decided to draw water directly from the lake which borders the town to supply the water network.
Since the end of May, the inhabitants of Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas (Haute-Loire) live to the rhythm of water cuts. However, this small village in the heart of Massif central was not really used to run out of water. DAt the end of May, one of the boreholes in the village ran dry. “I never thought it would happen so soon, we were very surprised,” testifies the mayor, Josette Arnaud. “Drinking water resources are declining due to low rainfall and almost zero winter snow cover in the Massif Central”, specifies the director of the Velay water management union, Frédéric Giraud.
In the month of June alone, the village suffered at least six blackouts several hours, according to the mayor. DCuts due to leaking pipes…caused by lack of water. In the pipes, the water and the air meet, creating “water hammers” which cause them to break.
These repeated interruptions complicate the lives of residents, hoteliers and tourists. In June, the Auberge du Couvige adapted somehow to the situation. “It’s system Dsays the manager, Fabien Rochedy. We make coffee at the Cristaline, we postpone the dishes until the next day.” Some mornings, the manager, who is also a city councilor, had to bring bottles of water to the rooms for guests to brush their teeth.
In mid-June, a water cut lasted for more than 24 hours, and adaptation was no longer possible. “We couldn’t leave our guests for 24 hours without taking a shower in this heat, or without flushing the toilets”, explains Fabien Rochedy, who had to send his clients to other hotels in the area.
To deal with this situation, a milkman, commissioned by the town hall, goes back and forth in his tanker truck. He fetches water from nearby villages and fills the village reservoir. At the rate of six fillings of 12,000 liters of water each, three times a week, it allows the municipality to hold on. Since June 25, no new incident has been recorded.
In order to avoid surprise cuts, some elected officials take the lead in reducing the consumption of their constituents. In the town of Molières-sur-Cèze (Gard), the “crisis” decree in force since July 27, the highest level of restrictions on the use of water, was not enough. The mayor of this village of 1,200 inhabitants, seeing the water resources decreasing dangerously, preferred to anticipate the dry breakdown.
On his initiative, the water was cut from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday, the last weekend in July. “It was either that or the total cut and the supply with the tanker trucks”, justifies Florence Bouis at franceinfo. Especially since in summer, water consumption increases further with the arrival of tourists. The municipality did not have to repeat such a drastic measure, but since Monday the flow had to be reduced to continue to save water.
“Overall, the inhabitants understand and make efforts”, says the mayor of Molieres-sur-Ceze. Like Maëva Williame, a mother who has not filled her pool this year. “We can’t afford to complain, the situation is catastrophic, if we have to abandon the swimming pool definitively we will do it”, says the 27-year-old, who says she hopes for rain every morning.
Others are less understanding. In the streets of Molières-sur-Cèze, some residents still wash their cars, despite the restrictions. Recently, the mayor surprised a resident who was doing concrete, which requires a lot of water. “Until then, we have favored pedagogy, but given the situation, there is a risk of verbalization”, warns the chosen one. Since the beginning of the summer, the French Office for Biodiversity has carried out more than 4,000 checks on compliance with restrictions on the use of water.