The level of the Loire at its lowest under the effect of the drought

by Stephane Mahé

LOIREAUXENCE (Reuters) – The Loire is a shallow river at the best of times but this year drought has reduced its water flow as rarely before.

The sandbanks of the Loire Valley now stretch as far as the eye can see, while in many places the longest river in France can be crossed almost on foot.

“The 2022 low water level is quite exceptional because we have a very significant rainfall deficit which started last winter and which puts many rivers, especially small ones, in a situation where there is no longer any flow. observable (…) This affects the whole territory, which is relatively unprecedented”, declared Eric Sauquet, director of research in hydrology at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. (Inrae).

The impact of the low water level on the oxygen concentration, the temperature of the rivers and consequently on the aquatic fauna is also very worrying.

“Fish need water to live, to find refuges – cool for some species – to move around. Particularly severe low water levels restrict their living environment and sometimes they find themselves trapped in puddles,” said Eric Sauquet.

The river’s flow is around 40 cubic meters per second – less than a twentieth of the annual average – but only thanks to the support of the Naussac (Lozère) and Villerest (Loire) dams, built in the early 1980s partly to guarantee the supply of cooling water to the four nuclear power stations bordering the Loire.


The Belleville-sur-Loire, Chinon, Dampierre-en-Burly and Saint-Laurent power stations have a combined capacity of 11.6 gigawatts, which represents almost a fifth of French electricity production.

With several EDF power stations shut down for technical problems and others whose power is affected by the drop in river flow, the closure of one or more power stations in the Loire could push up the price of electricity. electricity throughout Europe.

Tourists and locals alike marvel and worry at the sight of huge bare sandbanks.

“Even in 1976, the water was never as low as this,” said Brigitte Gabory Defois, a local resident.

A few days after the great fires that hit France, fueled by an exceptional drought, torrential rains fell on certain regions of France. Several departments are placed this Wednesday in orange vigilance to thunderstorms by Météo-France.

“Climate change is underway, it’s undeniable (…) there will necessarily be thinking about sharing water resources (…) agricultural practices to try to be less vulnerable to climatic hazards”, added Eric Sauquet.

(Stephane Mahe report, with Manuel Ausloos and Forrest Crellin, written by Geert De Clercq, French version Laetitia Volga, edited by Jean-Michel Bélot)

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