MISE À DAY
In France, where a historic drought is raging, the environmental police spot during a patrol in the south-east a lawn that is far too green, a sign that the restrictions on the use of water may not have been respected.
– “Hello, this is the environmental police, we wanted to check the watering of your lawns”, says Christophe Chaboud, agent of the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB).
– “It's a vacation rental and it's employees who manage the watering,” replies a young man, coming out of the swimming pool of this area located in the Luberon (south-east), one of the most touristic regions. of the country.
Christophe Chaboud notes the name of the owner and promises to take stock with him.
And for good reason, the situation in France is critical: almost all departments is on drought alert. Half are even experiencing a “crisis”.
About ten OFB agents crisscross the Vaucluse department to enforce the restrictions imposed on the use of water and thus try to preserve an increasingly rare resource.
The week -last end, one of them fell on a local resident who was watering her lawn in the middle of the afternoon with drinking water. Like many, she thought that “it's not its little use that was going to have an impact on the dryness”.
However, in such a context, every gesture counts.  ;
“Yes, the lawn is yellow in Provence, no, you don't fill your swimming pool in the middle of summer, nor do you puncture your well, because the underground resource is also lacking: you have to make efforts at all levels”, insists Gilles Blanc, environmental inspector.
The typical fountains of these Provençal villages must be dried up and farmers are not allowed to irrigate during the day.
“There's no more water! We are trying to get the message across,” insists Christophe Chaboud.
At the end of July, out of the hundred summer checks carried out in this department, the environmental police officers mainly did education, explaining to offenders that they risked a fine of up to 1,500 euros for an individual and 7,500 euros for a professional.
The OFB has limited means. The mayors, the police and the gendarmerie also have this power of control, but they don't have the time.
“Into the unknown”
In August, they fear conflicts for the use of water. In this region which is both very touristic and agricultural, the situation is complex, because some farmers have the right to irrigate freely via the terminals of the Société du canal de Provence.
A reserve of water that Provence was made up of by developing the sector's dam lakes in the 20th century, intended in particular to ensure the water supply and irrigation of the region as far as Marseille (south-east).
But Gilles Blanc pleads for a more reasoned use of this “blue treasure” when three quarters of the department will be placed in a crisis situation by August 8.
In Sault, a village with some 1,500 permanent residents, the massive influx of tourists this summer has caused water consumption to double.
“The car wash will be closing and we will have to explain to winegrowers that they will not be able to irrigate, even drip irrigation, 15 days before the harvest”, notes Gilles Blanc.
“We are going to have a terrible month of August and if it doesn't rain this fall “we're entering the unknown”, anticipates the water inspector.
A little further west, near Apt, the bed of the river is hard as stone, raising fears of flooding at the slightest episode in the Cévennes, these heavy and sudden rains typical of Mediterranean areas.
“We are worried”, repeat the environmental police. For them, it is urgent to adapt crops, systematize drip, fight against soil impermeability and restore wetlands that store in winter and release water in summer. < /p>