How To Check for Water Alerts and Restrictions in Your French Department


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How To Check for Water Alerts and Restrictions in Your French Department

With our worsening climate crisis, drought or “la secheresse” is now a fact of life. These periods of drought are now being experienced much earlier in the year in France and sadly, much more frequently. Depending on the French department in which you live, you may find that water restrictions are put in place over the summer months (and sometimes at other times of the year, too) – here’s what you need to know.

What are the levels of drought classification for water restrictions?

The French Government has brought in four levels of classification, each with an increasingly severe level of restriction, in order to combat water shortages. At any point in the year, different departments may be placed under any one of the following four classification levels:

  1. Vigilence

    The lowest level of ‘secheresse’ has no formal restrictions on water usage, but individuals and businesses are encouraged to take care with their water consumption.

  2. Alerte

    At the ‘alerte’ level, water restrictions may be put in place locally. These will vary depending on the department and/or commune, but may include restrictions on emptying and filling swimming pools, watering gardens and vegetable plots, car washing, agricultural irrigation, etc.

  3. Alerte Renforcée

    The same as the above category but with possibly tougher restrictions.

  4. Crise

    The highest alert level see strict water restrictions put in place, prioritising essential usage only. Restrictions may be placed on household usage and farmers in order to preserve essential supplies.

How do I find out about the restrictions in my area?

It’s important to stay up to date on the alert level and any rules and restrictions put in place in your local commune – fines often apply for non-compliance and in high alert areas, drones are often employed to patrol the area. If you have access to the internet, you can simply check the French Government website: Input your commune and postcode, or full address (if you live in a very rural location, put your largest local town) for the latest alert level and information.

Each Prefecture in France also has specific information for their department. For example, here is the latest information for the Charente. This gives a very accurate list, by Commune, of restrictions in place.

If you do not have internet access or are unsure about any of the restrictions, pop along to your Mairie and ask to be kept informed of any changes in your area.

What are the plans for the future?

The French Government is investing to prevent water leaks and water wastage in France, encouraging businesses to recycle water where possible and encouraging us all to be more thoughtful with water. You can read about their raft of measures on the Government website here.

If you want to do your bit for the planet, the advice from the United Nations is, first and foremost, to reduce energy consumption, and with the soaring cost of electricity and fuel, why not read about practical measures you can take in your home?

The ultimate question, of course, is what are Governments of the world and big businesses doing to stop our climate crisis. As David Attenborough has said: “The scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies. We are running out of time, but there is still hope.”

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.

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