Price, sobriety, repair of leaks… What to remember from the water plan announced by Emmanuel Macron

The Head of State presented Thursday, in the Hautes-Alpes, a long-awaited plan intended to improve the management of water, a resource threatened by global warming.

“We have a water resource that has fallen sharply.” Emmanuel Macron presented, Thursday, March 30 in the Hautes-Alpes, a long-awaited plan intended to improve the management of water, a resource threatened by global warming. Scientists anticipate a decrease of 10 to 40% in water resources, hitherto abundant in the temperate climate of France, in the coming decades.

Near the shores of Lake Serre-Ponçon, the largest freshwater reservoir in Western Europe, the Head of State has rolled out some fifty measures to reduce waste and make better use of water. Here’s what to take away from these announcements.

>> Follow live the latest news after the presentation of the water plan

10% reuse of treated wastewater in France by 2030

First avenue mentioned: the reuse of treated wastewater, currently practiced for less than 1% of volumes in France, compared to 8% in Italy, 14% in Spain and 85% in Israel. The objective announced by Emmanuel Macron is to move to 10% of reused wastewater by 2030, i.e. 300 million cubic meters, the equivalent of the consumption of 3,500 bottles of water per French person per year. The Head of State said he wanted to identify “a thousand projects in five years to recycle and reuse water.

On the occasion of the restitution of the conclusions of the assizes of water, in 2019, the executive had already shown its desire to resort to the reuse of treated wastewater through the objective of tripling the volumes of unconventional water reused by 2025, by facilitating their use. However, the reuse of treated wastewater is not a miracle solution: it is mainly relevant in coastal areas. In continental areas, treated wastewater is discharged into natural environments, where it contributes to the water cycle and the preservation of ecosystems.

Investments in drinking water networks

Emmanuel Macron has initiated the mobilization of 180 million euros to absorb the leaks, in particular in “170 blackheadsthat is to say all the areas where the leaks are very important”. For example, it will be a question of securing 2,000 municipalities which found themselves close to a situation of supply disruption during the exceptional drought of the summer of 2022.

>> Discover the map of the 170 priority French municipalities in the fight against leaks on distribution networks

To achieve this, Emmanuel Macron also promised an increase in the budget of the water agencies of 500 million euros per year – on a budget established today at 2.2 billion euros per year. “That’s the effort needed to trigger a total of about $6 billion more in water saving every year,” he estimated.

The President of the Republic also announced the establishment within 10 years of “smart meters” on the networks, especially with the biggest consumers.

He finally concentrated on the overseas territories, “who have a particularly difficult situation”where an additional 35 million euros per year will be allocated to water management.

Better water management for agriculture

It was one of the most scrutinized parts. Agriculture is the primary consumer of water through irrigation (more than 2 billion m3 per year), practiced only on 7% of cultivated areas, but most often in summer, when the resource is scarce. The government has worked on the development of crops that are more resistant to drought. Emmanuel Macron wants a “water, soil and adaptation diagnosis” be included in the aid for setting up new young farmers. Stated goal: to enable them to adapt to the warmer climate of 2050.

A budget of 30 million euros is planned to help farmers equip themselves with more water-efficient irrigation systems.

Conditions for new water storage works

These announcements come five days after the demonstration against the “mega-basin” of Sainte-Soline (Deux-Sèvres), marked by clashes of extreme violence between activists and the police. Attempts to conserve winter water in artificial reservoirs are turning environmentalists and part of the agricultural world against a “grabbing” of one “common good”.

The Head of State has promised, in the event of a new storage facility being necessary, not to “no water privatization”. These new constructions will have to meet several criteria, according to Emmanuel Macron: be adapted to future scenarios to cope with the impacts of climate change, contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and other local uses and be conditioned by changes in agricultural practices that save water and reduce pesticides.

A “progressive pricing” of water

Emmanuel Macron put forward a “progressive and responsible water pricing”. The purpose of this measure is to encourage the French to sobriety. So “THEs first cubic meters are invoiced at a modest price, close to the cost price” And “then, beyond a certain level, the price per cubic meter will be higher”, he explained. It must be able cover essential needs, said the Elysée.

A sobriety plan in each sector

Emmanuel Macron, who said he feared “situations of great stress next summer” in certain municipalities, announced that‘”a plan of sobriety on the water” would be asked “to each sector” of“here summer”. He quoted “energy, industry, tourism, leisure, agriculture”. The Head of State also called for everyone to take responsibility.

A “Ecowatt of water”, on the model of the instrument set up to reduce electricity consumption during the winter, will be made available “from this summer” : “The prefects have set rules for sharing and good use of water, and as we did during the winter on energy, we will have this tool from the start of summer so that every Frenchman, each farmer, each mayor, each business manager, can know the actions to be adapted in a very transparent way and the evolution of the situation”, said Emmanuel Macron.

Investments to adapt nuclear power plants to climate change

Emmanuel Macron also announced, without quantifying it, a “investment program” to adapt nuclear power plants, the third largest consumers of water in France for cooling, to global warming. About 12% of the water consumed in France is used by power plants, he recalled. “We must adapt our nuclear power plants to climate change by undertaking a vast investment program to save water and allow them to operate much more in a closed circuit”explained the Head of State.

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