Carcassonne. Drought in the Aude: “The exceptional will become the norm”

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The prefecture of Aude, in Carcassonne, yesterday hosted the first water management committee for the 2023 season. The body had never met so early in the year, responding to an early drought whose experts have detailed concrete manifestations.

Friday 17 March. Never in Aude had a Steering Committee met so early in the year. “In principle, it’s rather since June”, notes the prefect Thierry Bonnier in the preamble. The state representative does not hide by addressing the assembly with “a certain seriousness” : mayors, fishermen, farmers, all the elected officials and representatives gathered in the prefecture know that the inventory that will be drawn up for them will be very worrying. And that is to say the least.

“By the end of 2022, we were aware that we had exhausted our water reservescontinues Thierry Bonnier. We were hoping for a consistent winter top-up: it didn’t happen, far from it”. What Florence Vaysse, contact person for Meteo France, would have confirmed with an assessment that she could only speak more of the hydrometeorological situation of the department. “The water resource recharge season traditionally runs from September to March, because these are the months when it rains the most. However, in the eastern part of the department, we are at – 50% of the recharge, sometimes even just a third”. The specialist gives the example of the readings at the Fitou station: “We measured 98mm of water… The normal level at this time of year is 400mm. The previous record, set in 1968 and 1997, was 140mm. Suffice to say it exploded”.

All the elaborated observations are of the same kind, with in particular a “absence of beneficial rains on the whole department from March 2022 to March 2023”. In other words : “The deficit has been increasing for a year; we have never had so little rainfall during the recharge period since 1989”. logical consequence, “the soils are very dry throughout the eastern part of the department”with some “50 to 60% anomalies”. The sectors of Carcassonne and Castelnaudary are also in deficit, that of the Montagne Noire being “the only one to benefit from soil moistening”. A little consolation. “Last year the current level was reached on May 15: we are two months ahead of drying out the ground.”

Delivery “additional indicators”the representative of the Departmental Directorate of Territories and Sea (DDTM) will only drive the point home. “The snow levels observed throughout the Pyrenees massif are very low, close to historic lows. This snowpack will not participate sufficiently in the recharge of the water masses.” At the same time, dams charge “very low reservoir levels, of the order of – 35% filling in the Lauragais or Montagne Noire sectors”. be there again “a fairly new situation for the season”. Groundwater also features a “unfavorable situation in 75% of monitoring network points”with equal “46% of measured levels reach historic lows”.

The introductory presentation was thus summed up in a succession of unpublished data. “The 2023 season promises to be very difficult, after an already trying 2022”, launches the prefect of Aude, placing at the end of this Management Committee the entire department in a situation of vigilance (read elsewhere). Thierry Bonnier already evokes a “the sobriety that will impose itself on us”… And which, in the more or less long term, could very well become a real lifestyle. “From now on, the so-called summer dry season will last from June until the beginning of November.predicts Florence Vaysse. Exceptional situations will become the norm – that’s what you need to prepare for.”.

The department in a supervisory situation

“In consultation with all relevant stakeholders”, precisely in the Water Management Committee, the Prefect of Aude has decided to place the entire department in a situation of vigilance. The Agly watershed and the Plioquaternary aquifer are even placed on high alert, “this in interdepartmental coordination with the prefect of the Eastern Pyrenees”. The DDTM insists on the need to do so “be consistent with neighboring departments on the same volume of restrictions”the OPs have already placed the Roussillon plain and the Aggly watershed on alert. On the part of the prefecture, we also want to make all Audois aware of the seriousness of the context. “This vigilance situation is a first step before the possible implementation of the restriction of uses; with this vigilance, the authorities wish to make all water users aware of the great drought situation in which the department already finds itself. , and encourages everyone, from now on, to show responsibility and solidarity in the use of water”. But these recommendations probably won’t be enough to stem the effects of the drought: “Early and significant restrictive measures are expected in the coming weeks or months”.

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