From connecting your mains water to paying your water bills—here’s what you need to need to know about water supply and drainage at your French property.
Mains Water Suppliers in France
Mains water in France is typically supplied by one of three different companies, depending on your location:
In most towns and villages throughout France, the local mairie oversees the commune’s water supply and you can not choose your provider. You may be billed directly from one of the above-listed private companies or from your commune’s Syndicat d’eau (water syndicate).
Opening an Account With a French Water Provider
Before moving into your new property, you can either contact the provider directly or visit the mairie to ask for that property’s account to be transferred to your name.
You will need to show/send proof of address – an attestation de domicile from the mairie, compromis de vente or rental agreement. You may be asked for a deposit which will be refunded against your first bill. Check that the meter is read before you move in.
Paying Your Water Bills in France
Water is relatively expensive in France and is charged by the cubic metre at prices set by the commune. Costs vary from region to region, but average bills tend to be around €500 annually for the average household.
The most significant difference depends on whether you have mains drainage or a septic tank, the latter being much cheaper. Larger properties, properties with swimming pools, or smallholdings may naturally incur higher charges, while a small apartment may be much cheaper.
You can typically opt to pay your water bills annually, quarterly, or monthly. Some companies allow for cheque or card payments, but most homeowners and renters opt to pay by direct debit (prélèvement automatique). You can set this up when you open your account, by providing your French bank RIB and signing a mandat de prélèvement (direct debit mandate).
The water meter at your French property should be located near your mains valve. You should ask your provider or the mairie for the meter to be read when you take over your property (you could also ask the property agent to check it or take a note/time-dated photo).
Meters are typically read once or twice a year, so your monthly or quarterly payments will likely be based upon estimated usage.
Water Usage in France
While almost all properties in France are connected to mains water, some rural properties also have wells and if you have a spring (source d’eau) on your land, you are entitled to use the water from it.
Recent years have seen combinations of long, dry periods interspersed with torrential rain, neither of which is very good for topping up national water reserves. You should expect to encounter water usage restrictions during summer periods. These may include no topping up swimming pools, no watering gardens or washing cars.
These restrictions will be publicised in the local press and on the notice boards at your mairie, and they are enforced with fines (patrols are carried out in even in rural areas, so it’s best to follow the rules!).
Can I drink the tap water in France?
Tap water is safe to drink throughout France and meets EU standards. Many water companies will send through an annual report detailing the quality of the water in the region.
Drainage and Sewerage at your French Property
Now we’ve covered the water supply to your property, equally important is the disposal of your waste-water and sewage. The public sanitation service (service public d’assainissement) in France is maintained by the commune and your local Mairie will be able to give you all the details.
There are two options available. Most properties located in urban areas or close to large country towns will be connected to the mains sewer system, and their wastewater will be dealt will be directed to a collective sanitation system (assainissement collectif). This is overseen by the SPAC.
For rural properties not connected to the mains sewerage system, you will need to have an individual sanitation system (assainissement non collectif) installed. Typically this is a septic tank (fosse septique) or other sewage treatment system. It is your legal responsibility to install and maintain this system, and it is overseen by the SPANC. Visit our sewage and waste management zone for everything you need to know about choosing, installing, and maintaining a sewage treatment system.
If your property has a fosse septique or other sewage treatment system, you will be subject to SPANC inspections every four years and must provide a certificate of compliance in the case of selling your French property.
Read more about this in our article French Septic Tanks, Fosses Septiques, and Sewage Treatment Systems.
Own a Property or Second Home in France?
Our Essential Reading articles cover everything you need to know as a French homeowner from property taxes and home insurance to paying your bills. Perhaps you also need recommendations on removals to France, advice on building and renovations, or tips for managing a second home? FrenchEntrée is here to help! We can even advise on selling your French property.