In Volvic, the location of one of the most renowned mineral springs in the world, the public fountains have been shut off.
At the foot of the old volcanic hills of central France, just a short distance from the bottling plant, streams once strong enough to drive flour mills are drying up and towns are prohibited from using hosepipes.
Campaigners blame the Volvic plant, including Sylvie de Larouziere, leader of the water conservation organization PREVA. She grumbled, “It seems like it’s always getting bigger.”
After a stream that supplied his fish ponds from the 17th century abruptly dried up, a local aristocratic trout farmer filed a lawsuit against the corporation, which is owned by French giant Danone.
The Puy de Dome region is occasionally referred to as the “water tower” of France because to its consistent and heavy rains, which caused farmers downstream to slosh around in their fields due to the soggy soil.
But those times are a long time ago. Authorities banned the use of hosepipes and the filling of swimming pools in 31 nearby areas in early May due to “abnormally weak” supplies, affecting 60,000 people.
Volvic’s public fountains have been turned off, and the locals worry that there may be water shortages this summer.
“It was a shock,” said Maria-Louisa Borges, a retired cleaner who has lived in Volvic for 50 years. “We’re just coming out of winter.”
The constraints, which are felt in a region known for its plentiful water supply, highlight the stresses on France’s resources and the conflicting needs for an increasingly scarce resource.
Environment Minister Christophe Bechu stated last week that he had “very serious concerns” on the fact that two-thirds of the country’s water tables are below average.
However, it also raises concerns about the massive mineral water sector in France, which is already criticized by environmentalists for producing hundreds of billions of plastic bottles every year.
With brands like Volvic, Evian, Vittel, and Perrier, France is both the world’s largest supplier of bottled water and the origin of many of its most recognizable names.