France and the south and east of England experienced the driest July on record, making already scarce water supplies even more scarce, forcing restrictions on both sides of the Channel.
In France, where an intense drought has hit farmers and led to widespread limits on the use of fresh water, there was just 9.7 millimeters of rain last month, Météo France said.
That was 84% less than the average seen in July since 1991, making it the second driest month since March 1961, the agency added.
Meanwhile, swaths of southern and eastern England recorded the lowest rainfall on record in July, Britain’s Met Office, which has been compiling records since 1836, said on Monday.
The whole of England recorded an average of 23.1mm of rain – the lowest figure for the month since 1935 and the seventh lowest July total on record.
Low rainfall in both countries was associated with a summer of unprecedented temperatures, which exceeded 40 degrees Celsius in England in July for the first time.
Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that carbon emissions from humans burning fossil fuels are warming the planet, increasing the risk and severity of droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather events.
Analysis by an international team of researchers published last Friday found that human-caused climate change has made the recent record-breaking heat wave in the UK at least 10 times more likely to occur.
Water companies struggling with demand, impose restrictions
Water companies on both sides of the Channel are struggling to respond to the arid conditions.
Almost all of France’s 96 metropolitan regions have imposed restrictions on water use, also a record.
The country is preparing for its third heat wave this summer, starting in the southeast on Monday before heading north towards Paris.
Farmers across the country are reporting difficulty feeding livestock due to parched grasslands, while irrigation has been banned in large areas of the northwest and southeast due to freshwater shortages.
On the Rhine, which runs along the Franco-German border, merchant ships must roll at a third of their load capacity to avoid touching the bottom as the water level is low.
Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said rainfall in July represented “only 12% of requirements”.
“We have a heat wave which increases (water) needs and a drought which limits what is available, pushing us into this vicious circle,” Bechu told BFM television during a visit to the hard-hit department. of Isère, in the south-east.
In England, one water supplier has so far announced restrictions.
Southern Water, which is responsible for supplying much of south-central England, will impose limits on its nearly one million customers from the end of the week.
But the so-called garden hose ban could soon be replicated by other providers, following a warning from the UK government’s Environment Agency that people should use water “with wisdom”.
Most of England has moved to ‘prolonged dry weather’ status, the agency said last week.
This means it is now taking precautionary measures to mitigate impacts “as hydrological conditions deteriorate”.