French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned on Friday that France was facing the “most severe drought” ever recorded in the country and announced the activation of a government crisis unit.
Borne said many parts of France are going through a “historic situation” as the country experiences its third heat wave this summer.
“The exceptional drought that we are currently experiencing is depriving many municipalities of water and is a tragedy for our farmers, our ecosystems and biodiversity,” she said in a press release.
Weather forecasts suggest that the heat, which increases evaporation and water requirements, could continue for the next 15 days, perhaps making the situation even more worrying, the statement said.
The government’s crisis unit will be responsible for monitoring the situation in the hardest hit areas and will coordinate measures such as the supply of drinking water to certain places.
It will also monitor the impact of the drought on France’s energy production, transport infrastructure and agriculture.
The drought could force French energy giant EDF to cut power output at nuclear power plants, which use water from rivers to cool reactors.
Drinking water the priority
France now has 62 regions with restrictions on water use due to lack of rain.
The Minister for Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu, declared during a visit to the south-east of France that more than 100 municipalities are no longer able to provide drinking water from the tap and must supply themselves by truck.
“The worse the situation, the more priority is given to drinking water over other uses,” he said.
The month of July was marked by a record rainfall deficit in France. With just 9.7 millimeters of rain according to the national meteorological agency Météo France, precipitation has fallen by 84% compared to the average figures for the same month over the past three decades.
Météo France said July 2022 was the second driest month since measurements began in 1958-1959.
Farmers across the country are reporting greater difficulty feeding livestock due to a lack of fresh grass and are seeing lower yields, especially in unirrigated fields and in crops that require a lot of water like the corn.
Record heat in July for Portugal
Also on Friday, Portugal’s meteorological service reported that the country experienced its hottest July on record last month.
The heat worsened Portugal’s own drought, with 45% of the continent in “extreme drought” – the highest classification – and the rest in “severe” drought, which is the second highest, at the end of July .
Many other parts of Western Europe also experienced scorching conditions in early summer, and scientists say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme.
According to experts, the climate of southern Europe is changing to resemble that of North Africa.
Portugal’s weather service, known by its acronym IPMA, said July was the hottest since national records began in 1931.
The average temperature was 25.14°C, he said. That was nearly three degrees warmer than the expected July average.
The nationwide rainfall measured 3 millimeters, about 22 percent of the normal amount, IMPA said.
France is facing the “worst drought” in its history, according to the Prime Minister | Radio-Canada News