‘State of alert’ in France after driest winter since 1959

France is preparing to introduce restrictions on water use in parts of the country from March following the driest winter in 64 years, environment minister Christophe Bechu said.

France has recorded 32 days without rain, weather forecaster Meteo-France said.

With rainfall over the entire country of less than one millimetre a day since 21 January, Meteo France said the absence of precipitation equals the record set in spring 2020, while the number of days without rain has “never been seen” in winter before in records going back to 1959.

It added that rainfall for the next three months would be crucial for groundwater and rivers returning to their usual levels ahead of the summer.

Watering and irrigation is already restricted in 87 municipalities in the south, and meetings with officials on Friday and Monday will look at extending this, Bechu said.

“It’s unprecedented” at this time of year, the minister told broadcaster Franceinfo. “France is in a state of alert.”

Bechu did not spell out the possible measures but said they would be “soft” ones, and would be taken on a case by case basis when needed in a specific area to avoid having to take tougher, emergency measures closer to the summer.

As an example, filling swimming pools could be restricted in some territories, he said.

Despite the lack of rain, authorities remain relaxed over any food shortages.

France remains the EU’s largest crop producer, but below-normal rainfall is seen as less threatening after a surplus in some regions earlier in winter.

FranceAgriMer, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, has insisted that nearly all winter cereal crops are in good condition and spring barley sowing is advancing faster than usual.

With rainfall over the entire country of less than one millimetre a day since 21 January, Meteo France said the absence of precipitation equals the record set in spring 2020, while the number of days without rain has “never been seen” in winter before in records going back to 1959.

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