“The main source of water we have in France is precipitation,” this specialist on the water cycle and the effects of climate change in France recalls. During the winter, this precipitation recharges the water table and feeds the rivers.
lack of rain
This year, “All winter and spring, except for June, we had a lack of precipitation over much of the territory, which means that both the water table and the flows are below average,” the researcher notes.
She adds that successive heat waves reinforce this phenomenon, whereby soils lose water through evaporation, while “groundwater empties by feeding and pumping rivers by human activities.”
Agriculture accounts for 45% of water consumption
Agriculture is the most water intensive activity. Approximately 40 billion cubic meters of water are withdrawn annually in France, five billion of which are consumed, that is, not returned to the environment. Agriculture accounts for 45% of consumption with only 9% of withdrawals, before cooling power plants (31% of consumption), drinking water (21%) and industry (3%), according to the government.
The effects of farming are “significant, because they are concentrated in one period of the year – the three summer months – when agriculture can account for up to 80% of the water used,” always according to the government. Today, in the event of a drought, more or less stringent restrictions are placed on the use of water depending on the level of alarm.
If this regime is a “good principle”, how can we go any further, when global warming increases the duration and severity of droughts? Since 2001, the French capital has lost 14% of its renewable water resources compared to 1990-2001.
What if heavy consumers pay more?
“The gradual pricing of water can be implemented: the first cubic meter will be free and then the water will be more and more,” in stages, the researcher suggests. “People who use a lot of water will pay a heavy price for it,” she argues. This track was introduced by the government in 2019 during the Assises de l’eau.
The most radical solution is the introduction of water “rations” for each user, continues Agnes Ducharne. She argues that these measures “would encourage more sober behavior in the water.”
The main agricultural federation, FNSEA, advocates the creation of water tanks that fill in the winter, for irrigation in the summer because these tanks are not affected by restrictions. “It would be absurd to say we do not need it, and it would be absurd to do so much,” the researcher warns.
“The best place for water is groundwater”
“We have seen in the past that as water reservoirs are developed, the irrigated area increases” and farmers “remain vulnerable to drought,” she points out, citing Spain as a counter example. We must avoid this kind of maladaptation to climate change. »
“The best place to store water is groundwater, protected from evaporation and pollution,” as opposed to reservoirs where it “evaporates and is lost,” emphasizes the hydrologist.
“When there is no water at all, we cannot make it, we can just bring it in. No miracle is foreseen”
Other ways, “crops are more adapted to summer drought,” eat less meat to reduce animal feed requirements or even irrigate at the soil surface rather than scatter where water is lost by evaporation, suggests Agnes Ducharne.
Wastewater reuse is also part of pathways, for agricultural or other uses (golf courses, gardens, etc.) as well as individual savings.
#Quotas #progressive #tariffs #rational #irrigation #ways #conserve #water #Southwest