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France struggles to end its winter drought

France struggles to end its winter drought

A boat is seen on the dry banks of the partially dry Lake Montbel at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains as France faces a records winter dry spell. Photo credit: Reuters / Sarah Meyssonnier.

By Anders Lorenzen

At the base of the French side of the iconic Pyrenees mountain chain, a famous and critically important water source, Lake Montbel, has recently been experiencing very low levels of water due to an unprecedented winter drought.

The lake is usually famous in the region for its size, turquoise water and thriving aquatic life but is currently a muddy wasteland after the driest winter in France for 64 years. The boats of the local sailing club lie stranded on its banks.

Like many other places in Europe, France has suffered from an unprecedented drought this winter prompting a growing worry about water security across the European continent.

A shortage of 80%

During February of this year, the region in which Lake Montbel is based, the Ariege region had a combined rainfall shortage of 80%.

The artificial lake which usually extends over 570 hectares, was created in 1985 by flooding what used to be a forested area. It is located halfway between Toulouse and Perpignan and was originally created to irrigate the region’s crops, but has since developed and its banks, house campsites, hiking trails and has become a key tourist magnet.

Locals are worried about what the impact will mean for the local economy and have expressed fears that if the lake disappears many farms will also close down. Authorities are working on a plan to divert the nearby Touyre River to help fill up the lake, an idea that has been met with strong opposition from environmental groups.

As the impacts of climate change are set to intensify in the coming decades, warmer and drier seasons will become much more common, climate scientists have consistently communicated. 

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