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France facing even worse summer drought than 2022

April 13, 2023

This summer is likely to beat the record drought that hit France last year thanks to even lower groundwater levels. Climate change has made extreme weather more common.

Two women walk towards the partially dry Lake Montbel, south-western France
A lack of rain over the winter has left much of the country already dried out ahead of the summer heatImage: VALENTINE CHAPUIS/AFP/Getty Images

France is on course to experience an even drier summer than the record drought it suffered in 2022 that saw water levels fall to historic lows, the French geological service BRGM warned on Thursday.

Like much of the rest of Europe, the sweltering heat and lack of rain last year caused major problems for France. But following a particularly dry winter, experts are warning that 2023 could be even worse.

"The situation is worrying because the whole of France is affected and we have had several dry years," BRGM hydrologist Violaine Bault said.

Droughts and other such weather phenomena are likely to become more frequent and extreme as a result of global warming.

Water restrictions expected this summer

France's groundwater levels — the water that is stored in the ground and prevents it from drying out — are generally below the levels from 2022.

Due to the historically dry winter, the ground has not been able to take in more water ahead of the hotter months.

Three-quarters of the country has seen its groundwater levels fall below their monthly average. In March 2022, this was less than 60%.

When the land dries out, farmers are forced to water it themselves, which in turn reduces the groundwater level even further.

Fruit and vines are the crops that could be worst hit by any coming drought.

The wine-making region of Roussillon and the tourist region of Var — home to the popular town of Saint-Tropez — were two of the worst affected with groundwater levels at their lowest ever recorded.

Both of these regions were hit by wildfires last summer.

This aerial photograph taken on February 24, 2023, shows the low water level of the Tolla lake, on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica
Rivers and lakes have also seen their water levels dropImage: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP

Bault said that authorities will likely have to introduce water restrictions in many parts of the country — pointing in particular to central regions and around Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for new water-saving measures, saying that all sectors should decrease their water usage by 10% by the end of the decade.

ab/msh (Reuters, dpa)