What are the effects of climate change in France?  - The financier

What are the effects of climate change in France? – The financier

For a century, water flowed through gutters and canals to irrigate Cécile Messelis’ farm, but since 2020 the flow has started to decrease, until it stopped altogether this summer.

So the crops are now drying in the sun. The situation on the small farm in Seillans, in the Var region of southern France, mirrors an unprecedented crisis caused by climate change that has brought unprecedented heat waves and drought. In the fields where eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and melons once grew, there are now only dry and destroyed crops.

As water supplies ran out, farmers began watering crops with tap water to try to save vegetables, which are their only source of income. Since May, the authorities have further tightened water consumption rules as France is affected by a historic drought.

Such a picture is similar in other parts of Europe. More than 60% of the land in the European Union is under severe drought warnings or alerts.

And the rains of the last few days, which hit several parts of France, led to floods. In France’s Loire Valley, the ground is so dry that it simply cannot absorb the rain.

In Paris, flooding on Tuesday evening forced the closure of 10 metro stations. The change in weather brought relief to those who could no longer cope with the heat, but it was not enough to combat the drought.

Moreover, concerns regarding water reserves have appeared since the winter without rain and snow, a period when the price of water rose to 20 euros per cubic meter, a situation that many farmers could not cope with.

Thus, “It’s like we’re working just to pay for the water,” Cécile Messelis told CNN.

The irony is that during the water restrictions, his neighbors were allowed to fill their swimming pools, but farmers could not water their gardens.

“It was a shock. It was obvious that the priority should be food,” Cécile said.

In May, water was rationed in Seillans, and residents were not allowed to consume more than 150 liters per day per person. It should be enough to cover basic needs, statistics show that a French person consumes an average of 149 liters daily.

And yet, Seillans was one of the first communities in France to run out of enough water for residents this year. By August, approximately 100 localities had reached the same situation.

In comparative context, many areas of the Var region saw about 80% less rain than the long-term average between early July and August 10, and some areas received no rain at all. Drought in the Mediterranean region where Seillans is located has intensified due to the human-caused climate crisis, and heat waves have become more frequent and intense. And the drought doesn’t just affect farmers and households.

Along with it, strong fires broke out. More than 780,000 hectares of forest in Europe have burned so far this year, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. France’s firefighting resources were exhausted, so firefighters from Romania, Italy, Poland and Austria, as well as aircraft from Greece and Sweden, were called in to help. In households, the drought has led to a new habit. Every few days, people take pictures of their water meter to better monitor how much water they use. In order to limit water consumption, people resort to measures they did not apply before, such as watering plants with the same water from the bowls where they wash vegetables or taking faster showers.

Water is precious, people say. For the mayor of Seillans, René Ugo, water is more of a “sacred” resource, given that a stream running through the town has dried up and small businesses that relied on the water there have closed.

In his remarks, “It was a warning,” Ugo said, referring to observations he made after January without a bit of rain or snow. “I was afraid of what might happen and those fears came true,” he said. Under these conditions, the town hall of Seillans bought a water tanker, which makes eight round trips to replenish the water tanks in the most affected districts of the town. On a single journey, the cistern transports 8,000 liters of water.

Although he admits that it is a short-term solution, the mayor claims that it is also an investment for the future. He says he has no plans to sell the tanker, even if the drought ends, because such a situation could happen again.

For local policeman Philippe Grenêche, extreme drought has become the new normal. He and his colleague patrol the township to see if people are breaking water restrictions or stealing water from fire hydrants. “I had black gold. Now with this drought we also have blue gold,” Grenêche told CNN.