Science

Drought: high risk this summer over much of France

A large part of France, in particular in the eastern half, may experience a new drought this summer, according to forecasts published on Friday by the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research in charge of groundwater.

With the driest summer since the start of Météo-France measurements and several episodes of heat waves, the year 2020, the hottest on record, was marked by a severe agricultural drought, affecting in particular the wheat crops, beet or oilseed such as rapeseed.

While the summer has not even started, the situation this year is already “quite exceptional”, commented Violaine Bault, hydrogeologist at BRGM. Because the groundwater situation has already deteriorated in the spring, due to a “very dry” spring.

And the heavy rains in May did not reverse the trend. “It had been three months since it had rained. All the water was used to moisten the soil and feed the vegetation, very little water arrived in the water tables,” she said.

As Météo-France forecasts for June-July-August temperatures above normal for most of France and less rain than normal, the summer of 2021 is also likely to be the scene of a new drought, such as four previous years.

2020: hottest year on record in France (AFP / Archives – Nioucha ZAKAVATI)

Thus, the BRGM has classified the water tables of the Alsace plain, the corridors of the Saône and the Rhône, and the Mediterranean coast as a “very high” risk of drought. Many other aquifers are at “high” risk, especially in Brittany and in the center of the country.

On the other hand, the risk is low to very low in the Paris basin and in the Aquitaine basin.

The Ministry of Ecological Transition had published last month its drought forecast map which evoked a “very probable” or “probable” risk of drought for almost the entire territory, with an emphasis in particular on the Mediterranean coast and the Rhone valley.

“That does not necessarily mean that there will be drought decrees, but we suppose so,” commented Violaine Bault.

Last summer, nearly 90 departments issued orders imposing restrictions on water use.

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