In March, there was a significant amount of rainfall in some areas of the country, particularly in the western regions, after several weeks without effective rain. However, these rains had little impact on the state of the groundwater, which remains unsatisfactory in much of the country. A large part of the country, around 75%, has France’s groundwater levels below the monthly average, with many areas showing low to very low levels, according to the latest data released by the BRGM. This situation is a cause for concern, and it may lead to issues such as drought during the summer months.
From April onwards, it is expected that there will be occasional and not very intense episodes of recharge unless there are exceptional rainfall events. The low levels of recharge during the 2022-2023 season may impact all the groundwater in the coming months. Many regions have a high risk of drought during the summer, which can be problematic for agricultural activities and water supply. However, there is still a high level of uncertainty regarding the groundwater levels, and heavy rainfall during the spring season may help to support the levels and even reach satisfactory levels.
France Groundwater Forecast
The hydrological year 2021-2022 witnessed significant deficits in rainfall, and the strong demand for groundwater during spring and summer 2022 resulted in severe water shortages in the majority of the aquifers. The situation during the autumn and winter of 2022-2023 remained largely unchanged, with little recharge activity recorded. Although there was a marked improvement in groundwater levels in January, it was followed by a sharp deterioration in February. Even the deep infiltration of rainwater in March did not bring about a significant improvement in the overall state of the aquifers.
The recharge episodes during the autumn and winter of 2022-2023 were insufficient to offset the accumulated deficits from the previous hydrological year. Consequently, all aquifers continue to show levels below the norm, with 75% of observation points registering moderate to deficient levels. The situation at the end of winter is more difficult than last year, with 58% of the levels below the norm recorded in March 2022. This situation is a cause for concern, as it may lead to water shortages during the summer months, which can affect various activities such as agriculture and water supply.
The impact of increased drought on French agriculture output has been significant in recent years. According to data, France’s low groundwater levels have resulted in a decline in agricultural production, particularly in regions with a high concentration of crop production. In 2020, the drought led to a 12% drop in crop production, with corn and sugar beet among the hardest-hit crops.
In addition to crop production, the drought has also affected livestock farming, leading to a shortage of grass and water for animals. The lack of water and feed has resulted in a decline in the number of cattle and sheep, affecting farmers’ income. Furthermore, the cost of animal feed has also increased due to the shortage, which has further added to the financial burden of farmers. The situation has been particularly challenging for small-scale farmers who do not have the resources to invest in irrigation systems and other technologies that can help mitigate the impact of drought. Overall, the increased frequency of drought in France has become a significant challenge for the agricultural sector, affecting the livelihoods of farmers and the country’s food security.