Science

On the Côte d’Azur, tourism puts pressure on scarce water resources – Science et Avenir

“We’re on vacation so we don’t listen to the news too much…”: At Almanar beach in Hyères (Var), tourists, towel against towel, are unaware of the water restrictions imposed in a region hit by a historic drought that they exacerbate.

Anne Frety, 53, from Troyes (Aube), who is nationally aware of the problem, did not wash her car “for a while” but was “not at all aware” of the glaring lack of water on the Riviera.

Like 87 other municipalities in the department of Var, Hyères is in a dry “crisis”, which is the highest level of danger. The rivers are at their lowest in the region, where consumption is well above average (228 liters per person per day versus 109 liters in Nord-Pas-de-Calais).

Ann discovers that the showers on the beach have dried up, the only visible sign to summer visitors of the current restrictions. Right above the button, a sticker informs about the shutdown of water in the showers since May – the beginning of a drought alarm in the city.

But on the streets of the city center and at the entrance to tourist sites, there are no signs informing about the lack of water and the need to use this resource economically.

Restrictions aside, Ann Setimelli, founder of the conservation association Var Explore and Preserve, believes there is a need to “rethink the use of water” and, for example, permanently close beach showers in favor of “fill-in” drinking water outlets. your water bottle and avoid plastic bottles.”

The activist regrets that “politicians do not inform the public enough in a territory that is under very strong tourist pressure.”

According to the Regional Tourism Committee, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is in the top of the most attractive regions in France this season, with a “return in strength” of tourists at the same level as before the Covid-19 epidemic.

– Crowded pool –

On the Gien peninsula, still in Hyères, campsites near the Mediterranean beaches fill up in August. In a four-star establishment, oleanders gleam and the pool overflows: the staff has not heard about the restrictions, and in particular about the ban on filling the pools in this “crisis” situation.

AFP has contacted an environmental police officer in the region, but a caveat: institutions can request an exemption from prefects, “who tend to grant it when pools are collective during heatwaves,” citing “public health concerns.”

On the edge of the turquoise blue pool, Gregory Prudhomme, 52, who traveled with his family from Pas de Calais, notes that “the pool is not that big” and prefers to list campsites with “big pools”. , with slides”, or even individual pools of villas.

A few miles further, at the National Union of Outdoor Athletic Centers (UCPA) recreation center, there is no pool. “We are 25 meters from the sea, that would be an aberration,” says Gaspard Dalle, sports manager, while acknowledging that “UCPA centers with swimming pools register 30-40% more bookings than others.”

In front of the shed where wetsuits and life jackets are stored, a sign warns: “Every drop counts.” Gaspard Dalle calls the large 500-liter tank “fresh water and disinfectant” in which campers must desalinate their clothes: to adapt to the drought, the water is changed only once a day instead of twice.

The same goes for rinsing marine equipment (boards, catamarans, etc.) necessary for its durability: “We only rinse once a week, not every day.”

In this holiday centre, partner of the Port-Cros National Park, sustainability is one of the strong values, as evidenced by the communal canteen system, air conditioning control and biodiversity education.

“Customers expect minimal quality, and of course restricting water and air conditioning can hurt that quality, but I think that’s part of the education needed,” Gaspard muses. In particular, to reduce the tourist burden on natural resources: while a Frenchman consumes an average of 148 liters of water per day, his consumption increases to 230 liters of water per day on vacation, according to the Water Clearing House.

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