Towards a global water crisis?

18 June 2022

According to the latest forecasts from Météo-France, the approaching summer is set to be exceptionally hot and dry. After an already very dry winter and a spring that ranks among the three hottest and driest in history, the soil and groundwater in France are in a very worrying state. In some towns, such as Seillans (Var), tankers are already making daily trips to supply the population with water. In this interview conducted by Marie Pfund, Jean-François Mouhot, our national director, discusses this worrying situation.


MP: Hello Jean-François, the Ministry of Ecological Transition announced in May that 22 departments have a “very probable” risk of drought by the end of the summer, mainly in the South-East and the West. What is the situation today at the Domaine des Courmettes, the ecology training centre run by A Rocha in the PACA region?

JFM: A few days ago we realised that our spring, which supplies water to the whole estate and the farm, has a flow that has reduced by ⅔ of the normal seasonal flow. It has hardly rained at all since last autumn and we generally have very little rain in the summer. Even though we have reserves, the situation is rather worrying. It’s when water runs out that we become brutally aware of its importance for all our daily needs, and how complicated it would be if we had to choose between letting the plants and trees in the garden die, taking a shower or doing the dishes…


MP: Can we attribute this situation to climate change?

JFM: The South of France has always experienced droughts, but Météo France and many other reliable sources show that the frequency, intensity and duration of these episodes have really increased in recent decades. In fact, there is now no doubt that the increase in heatwaves is linked to climate change. Scientists are working to try to determine precisely which extreme weather events are statistically directly linked to climate change, but in fact the entire climate system is now permanently altered by greenhouse gas emissions from human emissions (via the burning of oil, gas and coal, for example).


MP: What is the situation with regard to water resources on a global level?

JFM: Global warming is already affecting us and will continue to do so over the course of the century. Global warming temperatures are leading to increased evapotranspiration (i.e. increased evaporation and drying of soils), and therefore to increased droughts. More solar energy in the atmospheric system also leads to the risk of more precipitation, and therefore more flooding (as happened last summer in Germany and Belgium). At the global level, the recent IPCC reports published in 2022 clearly warn of the risks linked to the decrease in water availability: “Climate change, including the increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events, has reduced food and water security.” This threat is particularly relevant for countries in the South: “The increase in extreme weather and climate events exposes millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security (…). About half of the world’s population is currently experiencing severe water scarcity for at least part of the year due to climatic and non-climatic factors.” (Summary for Policymakers, B. 1.3).


MP: What impact will this have on our daily lives?

JFM: There will be many: water restrictions in summer, the risk of an increase in water-borne diseases in certain countries subject to shortages, and above all a significant risk of an increase in conflicts over water use. One only has to think of the films Jean de Florette or Manon des Sources to imagine how important these conflicts over water have been in the past and will be again very soon.


MP: What is A Rocha doing about this worsening situation?

JFM: First of all, we have been warning for many years about the reality, the seriousness and the human responsibility for global warming. We hope that this awareness will mobilise everyone, especially Christians, to take action on a daily basis to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and to speak out publicly on the climate issue. The Church and Christians have assets to put forward and could be examples of simple living and restraint. In addition, we are experimenting with ways of adapting to climate change at Les Courmettes by promoting less water-intensive gardening techniques (e.g. organic farming with soil mulching), reducing our daily consumption and comfort levels, and considering building additional water storage facilities.


Jean-François Mouhot is a doctor in environmental history, lecturer and director of A Rocha France.

Marie Pfund is communications and fundraising manager for A Rocha France.


Source : Novethic

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