Hauts-de-France: Drought and groundwater at its lowest, what action plan to restore the water cycle?
Drought alert! The Hauts-de-France region was not used to hearing this kind of message. However, for several years, the tension on water resources has not ceased to worry the authorities, to the point that a new resilience plan has just been launched. But this time, resilience seems to rhyme with urgency and an additional 27 million have been put on the table by the Artois-Picardie water agency to implement solutions. Will they be permanent?
The region will not become, overnight, the dust bowl (Dust Bowl) that caused an ecological disaster in the great American plains during the 1930s, but over the years, the great cycle of water turns into a real vicious circle.
A water quantity problem
“There is a problem with the quantity of water in the region, but the policies put in place are going in the right direction”, reassures the Artois-Picardie water agency, manager of drinking water in the region. In fact, the mission of improving the quality of the water supply network is increasingly being combined with that of protecting it at all costs.
For several years now, the Agency has had to step up the pace to promote groundwater recharge, the sinews of war. Last year, after a particularly rainy summer, the groundwater level was considered to be “normal” overall. At the start of the summer, it has already become worrying again.
Because since 2017, the rainfall deficit is glaring, especially since “the winter of 2021-22 was one of the mildest since 1947”, according to the direction of the environment (Dreal). “It was marked by just enough rainfall allowing a correct recharge of the water tables over a major part of the territory”, she specifies. Since then, the situation has deteriorated significantly.
Basins on drought alert
“Since March, the weather has been mild, with above-average temperatures, very strong sunshine and very low rainfall. This trend has intensified in recent weeks, aggravating the dryness of the soil and the drop in the flow of rivers, ”announces the Dreal.
As a result, in June, the Yser and Sambre basins were placed on drought alert. In July, the Boulonnais and Audomarois regions as well as the Aa delta took over. With a lot of recreational and non-essential water use restrictions that are starting to become a habit.
In question, climate change, admits the water agency. The situation has not changed one iota: high temperatures, persistent rainfall deficit, regularly low groundwater levels and reduced flow rates in rivers. Hence the implementation of the resilience plan.
Dewatering activity areas
Faced with worsening soil drought, the water agency will have to fight against runoff and soil erosion linked to intensive agriculture. Among the concrete measures that must be put in place is also the preservation of meadows, hedgerows and wetlands and “acceleration of the dewatering of activity areas”, that is to say, to remove the concrete.
In addition, a six-year plan has been decided to “triple the rate of improvement in the state of waterways”. Is the hour so serious? From recovery plans to recovery plans, the increasingly significant drought risks seem to be taken into account by the authorities who are looking for solutions to, as the water agency admits, “adapt to climate change “.
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