Drought: faced with the lack of water, swimming pools are symbols of restrictions and targets of tension
At a time when the worsening drought is pushing water consumers to sobriety, tensions are growing around the issue of private swimming pools, a target of many elected officials.
In the flood of restrictions aimed at saving water in the hottest departments, some do not go unnoticed. In these sectors, such as the Pyrénées-Orientales or the Gard, it is now forbidden to fill or improve swimming pools. For the mayor of Elne, near Perpignan, it was even necessary to go further: he announced this week that he will not grant any building permits for swimming pools until further notice.
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At the beginning of May, the Minister of Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu had already announced a ban on the sale of above-ground swimming pools in the department. “Climate change is now, we must get out of the culture of abundance”, thundered the minister, reviving the image of swimming pool owners who are big consumers of water, in a country that has more than 3.4 million private swimming pools – about half of which are above ground, according to the Federation of Pool Professionals (FPP).
“Today we no longer empty the pools”
The president of the federation, Stéphane Figueroa, Catalan of origin, is sorry for this stigmatization. “Today, 47% of French people who buy a swimming pool earn less than 3,000 euros a month,” he assures, also contesting the impact of restrictions on swimming pools in the face of water shortages. “Today we no longer empty the pools, we conserve the water, we work to save it,” he says. According to the FPP, private pools account for only 0.15% of annual water consumption. Usage reduced by 45% in 25 years thanks to innovation (more efficient filtration, pool cover) and reduction of installed volumes.
“We are the scapegoats in this story. It is not right to speak of a culture of abundance. We are parsimonious with our water”, assures Jean-Louis Desjoyaux, president of the company of the same name, number one in Europe for in-ground pools. And to highlight a sector that is going strong, with record years 2020 and 2021: “There are many demands, observes Stéphane Figueroa. It is a pity to make this type of decision because it puts a brake on many professionals in a sector where, in France , we work very hard and when it’s high season”.
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Jean-Louis Desjoyaux says he is questioning the future of his independent concessionaires, especially in the Var where the nine municipalities of the Pays de Fayence have banned new private swimming pools until 2028. “If we don’t go back, we could go straight to bankruptcy,” He explains.
For Stéphane Figueroa, there are undoubtedly water savings to be made elsewhere, while nearly a billion cubic meters of water is lost in pipes every year, according to the Observatory of Public Water and Sanitation Services and the Office for biodiversity (OFB).