From: Reuters
Published May 17, 2011 06:46 AM

Drought crisis in France

France has imposed limits on water consumption in 28 of its 96 administrative departments, the environment ministry said Monday, amid signs that a prolonged dry spell that has hit grain crops would continue.

"We are already in a situation of crisis. The situation is like what we would expect in July for groundwater levels, river flows and snow melting," Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told a press conference.

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The government had previously put 27 departments under water consumption limits, and Kosciusko-Morizet said Monday that similar measures could be extended to three more -- effectively affecting a third of the country.

One of the hottest and driest Aprils on record in France has parched farmland and cut water reserves, stoking worries of a drought similar to that experienced in 1976 and fuelling concern harvests will suffer in the European Union's top grain producer.

No substantial rainfall is expected in the next two weeks, weather expert Michele Blanchard told Monday's press conference.

In an interview with Reuters Insider, Meteo France forecaster Michel Daloz said that temperatures would also rise sharply in the next week, boosting groundwater evaporation.

"It would really need a miracle, which is three weeks of heavy rain after the coming 8-10 days (of a dry spell), to hope to make up for some of the deficit," Daloz said.

Total rainfall in April amounted to barely 29 percent of the average established over the 1971-2000 period, the ministry said in a report, adding that soils in the northern part of the country were experiencing the driest conditions in 50 years.

"Rainfalls in coming weeks will be crucial," Kosciusko-Morizet said, adding that a wet month of July alone would not be enough to turn the situation around.

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Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/16/us-france-drought-idUSTRE74F3PR20110516

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