France facing 'most severe drought' in its history, PM says

French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne warned Friday that France is facing the "most severe drought" ever recorded in the country and announced the activation of a government crisis unit.

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French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne warned Friday that France is facing the "most severe drought" ever recorded in the country and announced the activation of a government crisis unit.

Borne said that many areas in France are going through a "historic situation" as the country endures its third heatwave this summer.

"The exceptional drought we are currently experiencing is depriving many municipalities of water and is a tragedy for our farmers, our ecosystems and biodiversity," she said in a statement.

Weather forecasts suggest that the heat, which increases evaporation and water needs, could continue for the next 15 days, possibly making the situation even more worrying, the statement stressed.

The government's crisis unit will be in charge of monitoring the situation in the hardest-hit areas and will co-ordinate measures like bringing drinking water to some places.

An angler is seen standing Friday on cracked and dry earth of the banks of Le Broc lake as a historical drought hits France. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

It will also monitor the impact of the drought on France's energy production, transport infrastructure and agriculture.

The drought may force French energy giant EDF to cut power production at nuclear plants, which use river water to cool reactors.

Drinking water the priority

France now has 62 regions with restrictions on water usage due to the lack of rain.

This photograph taken on Thursday shows a pharmacy sign that displays a temperature of 39 C in Wittenheim, France. On Friday, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said the country was facing its most severe drought in its history. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)

The minister for ecological transition, Christophe Béchu, said during a visit to southeastern France that more than 100 municipalities are not able to provide drinking water to the tap anymore and need to get supplied by truck.

"The worse the situation is, the more we make drinking water the priority compared to other usages," he said.

The month of July was marked by a record rainfall deficit in France. With just 9.7 millimetres of rain according to national weather agency Meteo France, rainfall was 84 per cent down on average figures for the same month over the past three decades.

A woman uses an umbrella to shield herself from the sun's rays in a Paris square on Wednesday. (Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters)

Meteo France said July 2022 ranked the second driest month since measurements started in 1958-1959.

Farmers nationwide are reporting greater difficulties in feeding livestock due to a lack of fresh grass and are noticing a drop in yield, especially in fields which are not irrigated and in crops which require a lot of water like corn.

Record July heat for Portugal

Also Friday, Portugal's weather service reported that the country saw its hottest July on record last month.

Farmer Christophe Trufault checks a dried corn field on Wednesday, in Courcemont, France. (Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images)

The heat worsened Portugal's own drought, with 45 per cent of the mainland in "extreme drought" — the highest classification — and the rest in "severe" drought, which is the second-highest, by the end of July.

Many other parts of western Europe also witnessed torrid conditions in the early summer, and scientists say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme.

Southern Europe's climate is changing to resemble that of North Africa, according to experts.

The Portuguese weather service, known by its acronym IPMA, said July was the hottest since national records began in 1931.

The average temperature was 25.14 C, it said. That was almost three degrees higher than the expected July average.

National rainfall measured 3 millimetres, which was around 22 per cent of the normal amount, the IMPA said.