Lot-et-Garonne: water sharing at the center of the session of the Chamber of Agriculture
A motion against the prefect’s formal notice to the single collective management body of the Garonne-Dropt water managed by the Chamber of Agriculture provoked a debate in Wednesday’s session on the sharing of a rare common good in a rural department: the water.
“Either we drink and die of hunger, or we eat and die of thirst”. On Wednesday, at the end of the session of the Chamber of Agriculture, Joël Hocquelet summed up succinctly the contrast between water for agriculture and drinking water that arose this morning, sometimes electric. The vice president of the departmental council with responsibility for agriculture is provocative but if there’s a little theater to be, it’s this one. This apparent confrontation between rural and urban residents mainly reflects the need to quickly find solutions for a fair sharing of water in a department that is France’s vegetable garden.
The debate was launched on the occasion of a motion voted by the members of the Chamber of Agriculture against the formal notice of the prefect Jean-Noël Chavanne against the single collective management body of the Garonne aval – Dropt waters (OUGC GAD) to fulfill the its duties and fulfilments within a month (the decree dates back to 14 February 2023).
The resolution, adopted unanimously, denounces “the action of the State services that want to delegate, without a regulatory basis, their administrative water police competence to the OUGC GAD”. Above all, he requests “that the services in charge of the water police present an assessment of the drinking water supply network, sector by sector, for each operator, providing precise information on network losses in raw and drinking water, by type of resource, courses of water and groundwater”.
“As long as water was cheap, nobody cared”
It is no coincidence that Serge Bousquet-Cassagne believes that withdrawing the management of the OUGC GAD from the Chamber is a punishment for the Caussade lake, for refusing to deduct the 30% land tax on undeveloped buildings (our edition yesterday ), in short, a punishment for all his work. Tribuna not as tired as he would like to say, the Speaker of the House made an effort to demonstrate how this organization was “wonderfully” managed. “Proof, he said, we have never been attacked by environmentalists.” Furthermore, no tax is levied, unlike the single institution “Neste et Rivières de Gascogne” (administered by the Chamber of Agriculture of Gers) or that of the Lot basin.
Incidentally, he described these last two organizations as “militiamen”, noting that the bans on pumping are, in summer, stricter than elsewhere on “Neste and Rivières de Gascogne”. The whole problem here is obviously pumping and watering. He then pointed out the waste of drinking water. He asks that the same controls be exercised for drinking water as for sprinklers. In wastewater treatment plants, for example.
“We will remove the management but, he wondered finally, to give it to whom? The prefect offered him to run again to recover the management of the OUGC GAD. But with a file consisting of more than two pages.
Potable water loss rate in Agen: 25%
“As long as water was cheap, nobody cared,” continued Jean-Noël Chavanne. Today it is a rare commodity. Sharing between drinking water and irrigation water will be made all the more difficult as the total volume will be reduced.” And addressing his guest: “The balance you ask for on the consumption of drinking water and on water leaks in the networks is a real problem. The departmental plan will aim to bring all partners to the table”.
The fact remains that Serge Bousquet-Cassagne’s charge hit the mark. Christian Girardi, mayor of Aguillon, stood up to point out that the loss of drinking water is 27% in his city. The loss rate in Agen is 25%, Mayor Jean Dionis later confided. “It is scandalous, then avid Christian Girardi, that the Aguillon stadium is sprayed with drinking water. “.
For Joël Hocquelet, every mayor’s duty is to maintain his own drinking water network. “Water has a price. However, to get votes, some make a very low price of water. In Marmande I inherited a contract where the renewal rate was 150 years. I raised the price of water with Agglo to go back to renewing at 100 years”.
“We prohibit the creation of resources”
Introduced to the prefect as a mentor, Jean-Michel Ruchaud, an emblematic figure of the Rural Coordination of Lot-e-Garonne, intervened by asking a question to better answer: “Are we losing water? The water is in the water cycle. It is lost compared to the its destination but it’s going somewhere.” For him, “at the moment we are completely hiding what it should totally mobilize: the creation of the resource”.
He then likened Spain to our land of plenty. “Like on the other side of the Pyrenees, 200 km away, an arid country which takes 250 mm of water a year and where there is no mention of drought can feed and water a population of 40 million inhabitants. And here, on the wet side, with 750mm of water – because, whatever displeases some and others, it doesn’t rain less, it rains differently – we forbid ourselves to create resources. Namely the storage of water in the winter. For example, pumping above the reserved flow. “But we prefer to organize the shortage”.
He joins Jean-Luc Reigne, CEO of Unicoque, who tweeted last Sunday: “The Lot in Villeneuve-sur-Lot this afternoon: 800 m3/s. Enough water flows in 35 hours to cover the irrigation needs of all agriculture in 47 for 1 year. Alas, politicians and NGOs live more on conflicts than on solutions…”