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towards a record summer in France and Europe?

The summer of 2022 is far from over, but the month of July has already broken all records in terms of temperatures, dry soil and even water shortages in France and Western Europe. In France, an interministerial crisis unit was activated on Friday.

It is an “exceptional drought”. While France is experiencing its third heat wave of the summer, 93 departments are subject to water restrictions, 62 of which are considered “in crisis”, the highest level of alert. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne activated an interministerial crisis unit on Friday August 5.

“This drought is the most serious ever recorded in our country” and “the weather forecasts suggest that the situation could continue over the next 15 days, or even become even more worrying”, underlines Matignon.

The crisis cell must make it possible “to ensure regular feedback from the departmental prefects of the most affected areas, to anticipate the possible activation of Orsec ‘water’ plans for the agglomerations concerned and to coordinate the measures of necessary civil security (water supply to municipalities, delivery of drinking water, etc.)” It will also monitor “the impacts of this drought for our energy production and transport infrastructures and for our agricultural sector, in particular the livestock sector”.

According to the latest monthly report from Météo-France, July 2022 is “the driest month of July” since the start of measurements, in 1958-59, with a cumulative aggregate rainfall of 9.7 millimeters, i.e. a “deficit rainfall almost 84%” compared to normal. The previous record dates back to July 2020 (16.7 millimeters of precipitation). All months combined, July 2022 is “the second driest month” in the country, according to the national meteorological and climate service.

Still according to Météo-France, since July 17, “the drought of the superficial soils (…) is the most severe ever recorded, beating that of 1976”. There are also temperature records, the day of July 18 being designated as “the hottest day ever recorded in France all months combined with an average maximum temperature of 37.6 ° C, or 10.8 ° C more than the normal”. Absolute heat records were recorded in several cities, such as Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine, where it was 40.5 ° C, or Biscarrosse, in the Landes, where the thermometer showed 42.6 ° C .

An exceptional drought affecting all of Europe

July was also the driest month on record for the south of England, according to figures released by the weather services on Monday 1er august. Restrictions on water consumption have been put in place. Nationwide, according to the Met Office, rainfall was just 56% of average, the lowest level since 1999. In the south of England, the figure is just 17 % of average precipitation.

On Wednesday August 3, the Netherlands officially declared a “water shortage”, due to the drought that has been hitting them for several weeks. Dutch authorities have already imposed limits on farming and shipping, and warned in a statement that new measures to conserve water in this drought period were being considered.

Spain is also on alert. According to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the reservoirs fed by the Guadalquivir River and its tributaries in Andalusia are at 30% of their capacity. According to a study published in early July in the journal Nature Geoscience, the Iberian Peninsula has never been so arid for a millennium.

In Italy, the specialized site notes that “for three consecutive months, May, June and July, the climatic anomaly was confirmed, with temperatures at the national level at least two to three degrees above the seasonal average. A particularly catastrophic situation in the agricultural plain of the Po, hit by its worst drought in 70 years.

Using wastewater to reduce water stress?

At European Union level, according to AFP, water shortages currently affect 11% of the population and 17% of its entire territory. Around the Mediterranean, around 50% of the population lives under constant water stress during the summer.

By 2030, water scarcity and water stress will probably affect half of the European Union’s river basins. On Wednesday August 3, the European Commission adopted guidelines advising Member States to learn how to reuse treated wastewater in the agricultural sector. As Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius points out, “freshwater resources are scarce and increasingly stretched. It is our duty to stop wasting water and use this resource more efficiently”.

The EU has a regulation on the reuse of water, applicable from June 2023. The Commission has also proposed to revise European legislation on industrial emissions and on the treatment of urban waste water to encourage reuse some water.

Fertile ground for growing fires

These strong heat waves accompanied by an extraordinary drought formed an explosive cocktail for the fires this summer. According to the European specialized monitoring service Copernicus, on July 16, the forest fires raging in Europe had already affected more area than during the whole of 2021. As of August 4, the latest data from Effis, the European system information on forest fires, mapped a burned area at European level of 648,447 hectares, including 271,063 between 2 and 30 July.

If the trend continues, 2022 could equal or exceed 2017, the worst year on record in the EU since the creation of Effis in 2000, which saw 988,087 hectares of vegetation go up in smoke.

In the countries most affected by the recent heat waves at the start of summer, Spain is the most affected, with more than 230,000 hectares burned since the start of the year, compared to almost 85,000 in 2021; in France, there are 47,431 hectares burned, compared to just over 30,000 for the whole of 2021. In eastern Europe, Romania has seen nearly 150,000 hectares ignite compared to 20,364 in 2021 .

In a report published last February, experts from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) predicted “a global increase in extreme fires of up to 14% by 2030, 30% by 2050 and 50% by the end of the century”, because of climate change.

With AFP


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