Ban on new swimming pools in parts of France amid drought ‘crisis’

Ban on new swimming pools in parts of France amid drought ‘crisis’

Sales of swimming pools are being banned in parts of France as drought conditions continue to grip the country.

Pyrénées-Orientales, a department on the Mediterranean coast bordering Spain, will be declared at a “crisis” drought level next week.

“We need to get out of our culture of abundance,” France’s Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu said in a radio interview on Friday morning.

Filling existing swimming pools, car-washing and watering gardens will also be banned on 10th May in the region.

So far a handful of areas have declared “crisis” situations but overall, nearly half of France is facing some level of water shortages.

Minister Béchu explained the reasoning behind the step.

“The Pyrénées-Orientales is a department that has not known a full day of rain in over a year,” he said. “When you are in a crisis like this, it is really quite simple. It’s drinking water and nothing else. Climate change is here and now... We need to show far more restraint in how we use the resources we have.”

Mr Béchu warned that some 2,000 French villages and towns are at risk of losing their water supply this year.

Europe experienced its hottest summer ever in 2022, and more extreme temperatures are expected in the coming months.

The heat combined with less rainfall led to widespread drought across the continent with devastating consequences for agriculture, river transport and energy production.

This winter was subsequently France’s driest since record-keeping began in 1959. Unseasonable warmth across mountain ranges like the Alps and Pyrenees also meant little run-off from snowpack this spring to quench arid land.

While there was decent rainfall in March, it has not been enough to restore water levels, leaving only Brittany, France’s most northwesternmost region on the Atlantic, and Aquitaine in the southwest, somewhat stable.

Residents have shared images of dried-up riverbeds and vastly depleted lakes from across France. In Pyrénées-Orientales, aquifer levels have declined so much that there is concern sea water could seep into the supply, endangering the tap water supply.