France wants to reduce water use as rivers dry up

The French government wants to reduce water use by encouraging wastewater recycling and encouraging consumers to less water as the flow of rivers gradually slows due to climate change.

Following months of discussion with local authorities and utilities, the environment ministry said in a report it wants to reduce water use by 10 per cent in five years and by 25 per cent in 15 years.

The aim is to prepare France for a drier future – the report cited a government study which forecasts that the average discharge volume of French rivers could fall 10 to 40 per cent over the next half-century.

“Water is one of the priority issues in our fight to save the environment,” Environment Minister Francois de Rugy told reporters at the presentation of the report.

In order to lower water usage, the government wants to see higher water prices for big consumers – such as households with a pool – but leaves it up to local authorities to set tariffs. In France, the average person uses about 150 litres of water per day.

“We will set up a framework and incentives for local authorities to take action,” junior environment minister Emmanuelle Wargon said.

The government also plans to tighten water use requirement for certain industries such as the building sector from 2022.

By 2025, the government also wants to triple the use of rainwater and recycled wastewater for watering plants, flushing toilets and other uses that do not require drinking-water standards.

In France, only about one per cent of wastewater is recycled, compared to about 10 per cent in Spain and Italy, French water utility Suez executive Marie-Ange Debon told RTL radio on Monday.