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You are here: Home / The European environment – state and outlook 2010 / Country assessments / France / Freshwater - Drivers and pressures (France)

Freshwater - Drivers and pressures (France)

Topics: ,
SOER Common environmental theme from France
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Abstraction of water

Water for human activities is abstracted from surface waters and from groundwater. In 2007 31.6 billion m3 of water were abstracted in metropolitan France for public distribution of drinking water, industry, irrigation and energy – nuclear and thermal power stations.

The distribution of the volumes abstracted varies greatly according to use. Energy production abstracts by far the largest quantities: in 2007, 59 % of the water abstracted was used to cool electricity generating plants. However, most of this, an estimated 93 %, is returned to the watercourses after use. 

Irrigation accounts for only 12 % of the total volume, but returns only a very small part of it. Its impact is even greater than this figure suggests since abstraction is mostly from surface waters during periods when they are at their lowest.

Eighteen percent of the volume abstracted is for drinking water, and the industrial sector uses relatively small quantities, 10 % of total abstraction.

Distribution of abstracted volumes, by use in 2007 in metropolitan France

Distribution of abstracted volumes, by use in 2007 in metropolitan France

In billion m3

Note: The data on abstraction for drinking water from the Seine Normandy basin have not been updated following problems regarding the raw data. Therefore, the values for 2006 have been carried over for this basin.  Source: Agences de l'eau - SOeS, 2010.

 

In 2007 about 82 % of total abstraction was from surface waters – rivers, canals, lakes, and reservoirs. However, this varies greatly according to usage and geographical factors.

 

Groundwater is the main source of drinking water – nearly 63 % – because of the generally better quality of this type of resource. Virtually all the water, 99.9 %, used for cooling electricity generating plants comes from rivers. Nearly 80 % of abstraction for irrigation, and 59 % for use by the industrial sector, is from surface waters.

Origin of abstracted water resources, by use in 2007, in metropolitan France

In millions of m3 and %

 

Drinking water

Industry

Irrigation

Energy

All uses

Surface waters

2 161

37 %

1 823

59 %

3 136

80 %

18 785

99.9 %

25 905

82 %

Groundwater

3 614

63 %

1 285

41 %

787

20 %

25

0.1 %

5 710

18 %

Total

5 775

100%

3 108

100%

3 923

100%

18 810

100%

31 615

100%

Note: Metropolitan France: the volumes have been estimated from the declarations made by the users to the Water Agencies for all uses, including irrigation. The declared volume for irrigation is probably underestimated. The data on abstraction for drinking water from the Seine Normandy basin have not been updated following problems regarding the raw data. Therefore, the values for 2006 have been carried over. In 2007 the surface water / groundwater distribution for this basin was estimated for irrigation on the basis of previous data. Source: Agences de l'eau - SOeS, 2010.

 

The total volume abstracted has remained relatively stable since the beginning of the 1990s. Nevertheless, the trends vary according to the uses. After a steady increase from the 1950s up to the middle of the 1980s, abstractions for drinking water seem to have stabilised, apart from 2003, which was an exceptional year because of the severity of the heat wave . The volume abstracted in 2007 was similar to that in 2006.

Geographical distribution of water abstractions

Trends in water abstraction by use (in million m3)

Geographical distribution of water abstractions

Source: Agences de l'eau - ministère chargé de l'environnement (Ministry of the Environment) (Direction de l'Eau (Water Directorate)) – SoeS; note regarding methodology.

 

Geographical distribution of water abstractions

The volumes of water abstracted vary greatly according to uses and regions. Each year about 100 m3 per inhabitant are abstracted for drinking water, more in the regions with the highest populations and high tourist potential – Ile-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Rhône-Alpes.

Similarly, abstraction for the industrial sector in the east, north, the Rhône valley or even the south-west regions is more than in the less industrialised regions such as the Auvergne or Limousin.

Geographical distribution of water abstractions


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