(Savines-le-Lac) Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday a “sobriety plan” on water for all economic sectors, but also for individuals who could pay more if they consume too much water, during a trip to the Hautes-Alpes where he felt that the pension crisis does not mean that “everything must stop”.
The president also announced the implementation of a target of 10% wastewater reuse by 2030, the first while France is very behind on this subject. Fearing “situations of great stress next summer” on this resource threatened by global warming, he wanted the reuse of “300 million cubic meters, or 3 Olympic swimming pools per municipality […] or 3,500 bottles of water per French and per year”.
A few days after the violent demonstration against the mega-basin of Saint-Soline (Deux-Sèvres), he validated their usefulness, while saying that he wanted to better “distribute their uses” and condition their use on water saving practices and of pesticides.
Expected at Lake Serre-Ponçon by some 200 demonstrators against the pension reform, who chanted “Macron resignation” supervised by the CGT and the Peasant Confederation, Emmanuel Macron estimated that this protest “does not prevent (him) from going meeting the French”.
“He diverts attention, he knows how to do it very well, from the real subjects”, regrets Julie, a 40-year-old protester from the neighboring town of Guillestre.
Two demonstrators were arrested even before the arrival of the head of state, who has hardly traveled to the country since the presentation in January of the flagship reform of his second five-year term, providing for the decline to 64 years of the legal retirement age.
“A sobriety plan on water” will be requested “from each sector” by “by summer”, warned Emmanuel Macron calling for everyone to be responsible and not only agriculture, the main consumer of water. via irrigation (more than 2 billion m3), practiced only on 7% of cultivated areas, but most often in summer, when the resource is scarce.
After a heat wave and a historic drought in the summer of 2022, the winter in France was particularly dry with a record 32 days without rain, which did not allow the water tables to be replenished, for 80% below the normal on March 1.
The president cited “energy, industry, tourism, leisure”, but individuals will also be asked to limit their consumption, using an “EcoWatt of water” modeled on the instrument put in place to reduce electricity consumption during the winter. They will be encouraged to do so by the generalization in France of a “progressive and responsible pricing” of water. The “first cubic meters” will be “charged at a modest price, close to cost”, but “beyond a certain level, the price per cubic meter will be higher”.
In another very consuming sector, the president announced an investment program to adapt nuclear power plants, the third largest consumers of water in France (12%), for their cooling systems.
Against the backdrop of the largest freshwater reservoir in Western Europe, Emmanuel Macron defended the installation of basins, which pump water from groundwater during the winter so that farmers can water their crops. the summer.
“It’s not about privatizing water or allowing some to grab it,” he said, but called for future works to be conditional on “meaningful changes in practice,” starting with saving water and reducing the use of pesticides by farmers.
These large open-air reservoirs point environmentalists and part of the agricultural world, who denounce a “grabbing” of a “common good”.
On Saturday, the demonstration against one of these basins in Sainte-Soline gave rise to clashes of extreme violence between activists and the police. Thousands of people had “simply come to make war”, commented Mr. Macron on Thursday, condemning “unacceptable violence”.
This water management strategy was initially to be presented by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. But the president, who has made ecology, school and health his next priorities in an attempt to get out of the pension crisis, finally stole the show with a trip announced at the last moment.
Climate experts anticipate a 10% to 40% decrease in water resources, hitherto abundant in the temperate climate of France, in the coming decades.