what France’s four drought warnings mean

Each department of metropolitan France now has at least a few municipalities on one of the four drought alert levels.

It comes after the country’s Minister for Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu, confirmed that last month was the driest July in France since records began in 1959.

There are four levels of drought alert in France:

Code 1 – warning (vigilance)

Code 2 – alert (to alert)

Code 3 – heightened alert (heightened alert)

Code 4 – crisis (crisis)

The departments normally have a general alert level, but this can vary from one municipality to another, which means that a city can be on code 1 and the neighboring city on code 2.

Read more: Drought map update: See French departments with water restrictions

Read more: People in southwestern France can’t water gardens for three months

You can see a detailed breakdown on the government’s Propluvia drought warning website here.

These alerts are not the same as heat wave alerts, which refer to extreme temperatures over a long period of time. Drought alerts apply specifically when there is a risk of water shortage, linked to extreme weather conditions.

Learn more about the latest heat wave alerts in our articles here:

Heatwave alerts issued for most of France today as temperatures rise

French heat wave alert extended to 27 departments

Code 1 – warning (vigilance)

This is the lowest alert level. Propluvia common colors on vigilance level alert in gray.

There are no mandatory water restrictions in place in the communes at this level, but local authorities will begin to inform people of the potential for worsening drought.

At this level :

  • Individuals and businesses are encouraged to reduce their water consumption, but it is not mandatory.
  • Information on reducing water use and drought management should be shared by local and county authorities – you can receive leaflets by post describing this.

Code 2 – alert (to alert)

This alert is applied when water shortages could affect multiple sectors, such as drinking water, gardening, irrigation, etc. From this level, water restrictions are in place.

  • Bans could be introduced on the watering of gardens, green spaces or golf courses at certain times, for example between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
  • Bans may be introduced on washing cars at certain times
  • Limitation of the watering of sports grounds between certain hours
  • Limits are likely to be imposed on the filling or emptying of private swimming pools, with some exceptions, for example if it is the first filling of the swimming pool, provided that the construction of the latter has started before the implementation of restrictions.
  • The use of water for agricultural means is limited
  • Measures are in place to prohibit the opening of the valves

Mayors of individual municipalities can adjust the above rules depending on the situation, so you should check with your local town hall for more specific details.

Code 3 – heightened alert (heightened alert)

This level is applied when it is not possible to meet the water needs of all sectors. Currently, there are municipalities on level 3 alert in 38 departments of metropolitan France.

The following measures apply at this level:

  • Stricter limits on watering gardens, green spaces or golf courses, for example a ban between 09:00 and 18:00. In some cases, these acts are completely prohibited.
  • Stricter limits on the watering of sports fields, for example a ban between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
  • Stricter limits are placed on car washing and in some cases it is banned altogether
  • Limits are likely to be imposed on the filling or emptying of private swimming pools, with some exceptions, for example if it is the first filling of the swimming pool, provided that the construction of the latter has started before the implementation of restrictions.
  • Local health authorities will decide if public pools can be filled/drained
  • The use of water for agricultural means is still limited

The mayors of individual communes can adjust the above rules depending on the situation, so you should check with your local town hall for more specific details.

Code 4 – crisis (crisis)

This level is applied when the previous three levels are not sufficient to manage the situation.

Currently, there are municipalities on level 4 alert in 46 departments of metropolitan France.

The following measures apply at this level:

  • The use of water is authorized only for necessary needs, including for drinking, health, civil security, cleaning
  • No watering of gardens or green spaces. There are sometimes exceptions for trees, shrubs and vegetable gardens at certain times
  • Stricter limits on golf course watering, for example it will only be allowed overnight
  • Prohibition of watering sports grounds, except in the event of elite competition
  • Ban on washing cars
  • Prohibition to fill or empty private swimming pools
  • Local health authorities will decide if public pools can be filled/drained
  • Prohibition of water use for most agricultural practices

Mayors of individual municipalities can adjust the above rules depending on the situation, so you should check with your local town hall for more specific details.

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