Dry Europe | Journalism

Extreme heat continues to hit many European countries. Water levels are dropping, both in reservoirs and in rivers. Experts warn that with new climate realities, the relationship of people and governments to blue gold must now change.

Posted at 5:00 am

Janie Jocelyn

Janie Jocelyn

A new heat wave in the UK

The UK may have the image of a gray and rainy place, but the country is now fearful of drought, after a hot, dry summer. England and Wales are expected to witness a new episode of the heat wave from Thursday. “England is known from the outside for the tacky image of its green and idyllic lawns, as shown on phone by Jeff Da Costa, a researcher at the University of Reading in the UK. There, we see brown everywhere. The new rise in mercury adds to an already dry and hot summer, teasing Drought fears Britain’s environment minister, George Eustice, has called on water companies in this privatized country to take action to protect resources Some have already restricted irrigation.

Photo by Matthew’s Children, Reuters

Dry grass at Patchwood Golf Course, UK

rivers dried up

Brown does not only apply to grass: spring has dried up in the Thames too, leaving behind only a few muddy puddles, without the slightest trace of aquatic life, the BBC reports. “The conditions disrupt aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems and lead to many secondary effects on animals and plants,” says da Costa, who is interested in hydrometeorology and the consequences of extreme weather. Another important waterway in Europe, the Rhine River is causing concern in Germany, with its low level. The river is used to transport goods, including coal and gasoline, and navigation may become difficult for larger boats. Government officials estimate the river could drop below 40 cm on Friday in the town of Kaup. The river was at its lowest in 2018, at 27cm.

Photo by Wolfgang Rathai, Reuters

The water level of the Rhine is causing concern in Germany.

fires in france

France does not know any respite due to fires and scorching temperatures. Since Tuesday noon, the fire has forced the evacuation of 6,000 people in Gironde, an area already hit last month by the flames. On Tuesday, another wildfire south of Bordeaux regained strength, fueled by the surrounding drought. Since January, more than 50,000 hectares have burned in the country, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. The southwest of the country saw a new wave of heat on Wednesday, the third heatwave of the summer — less hot, but longer, this time. Of the 96 provinces in the French capital, 93 are subject to measures to restrict water use.

Photo by Stephane Mahe, Reuters

The Belen-Bellet fire in the Gironde region of southwest France

Agriculture and water reserves

French farmers, especially in the field of maize, are worried about the current drought on their production. The measures put in place, such as a ban on irrigation, leave farmers helpless in the face of dry vegetation. Then the effect is felt on the rest of the population. “Agriculture can start to suffer a bout of extreme heat, and become more complex because the local demand for water is increasing at the same time, with swimming pools and gardens,” Heather Smith, lecturer in water management at Cranfield University, UK, confirms by phone. In Spain, a large part of the water is usually used for agricultural irrigation. However, the country was not spared the absence of rain and heat. Its water reserves were reduced to 40.4% of capacity at the beginning of August. The Minister for Environmental Transformation, Teresa Ribera, quoted by Agence France-Presse this week, said she expects “bouts of maximum tension”.


French farmer Michel Larrier inspects dried corn stalks in a field in Montau, southwest France.

Rethink your water consumption

The situation is forcing the leaders and companies responsible for water to take various measures to preserve the precious resource: in some municipalities, the fountains have stopped working. Irrigation is restricted. But beyond temporary solutions, experts are calling on governments and residents to rethink their relationship to water. “We use a lot more water compared to the climate in which we currently live,” explains Mr. Da Costa. For Heather Smith, it is essential to reduce demand, prevent waste and leakages, and consider better wastewater reuse. “The forecast is that we will have a longer, drier summer, and we should review our water use,” she adds.


In the vast majority of the provinces of the French capital, measures have been taken to restrict water use.

With Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, BBC and Reuters

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