“Water Plan”: how the State wants to get companies to reduce their consumption

A “water plan” to dive back into the deep end. After a start to the year largely vampirized by his highly contested pension reform, Emmanuel Macron tried to turn the page and reconnect with travel in the regions, around an environmental issue, that posed by drought. A hotly topical subject, at the end of a trying summer 2022, at the end of a winter 2023 marked by a record number of consecutive days without rain and at a time when 11 departments are already on alert and one in “crisis ” (Bouches-du-Rhône).

To respond to this weather emergency, but also to climate change, the President of the Republic presented, on March 30, in the Hautes-Alpes, the main axes of a “plan of sobriety and efficiency for water” . A title that is reminiscent the one set up in the fall of 2022 in the field of energy. And for good reason: the principle, the method and the content are directly inspired by it. Some tools too: in anticipation of next summer, an “Ecowatt of water” must thus be launched to alert the population in the event of a risk of shortage, as was the case this winter with electricity. The idea is “that each Frenchman, each farmer, mayor or company manager, can know the gestures to adopt […] and the development of the hydrological situation.

A goal of water savings at a discount

More broadly, and as the government had therefore also done for gas, electricity and fuel at the end of 2022, Emmanuel Macron decided to get wet and display a clear target to be achieved: “for 2030 , make 10% water savings in all sectors”, compared to the volumes withdrawn in 2019.

An ambitious goal? Not really: it turns out, in fact, to be lower than that set by the Assises de l’eau nearly four years ago (reduction of 10% from 2024 and 25% by 2034).

Sectoral sobriety plans in preparation

No matter, to achieve this goal revised downwards, the Head of State nevertheless sounds the general mobilization. As last year, the representatives of each sector (in particular, “energy, industry, tourism, leisure and agriculture”) will therefore be convened by their supervisory minister to draw up, “by the summer”, a “plan of sobriety”, this time devoted to water.

In addition, the authorities promise specific “accompaniment” for “at least 50 industrial sites, with the greatest potential for reduction”, indicates the government’s press kit. Here again, this targeting is reminiscent the method used for decarbonization and energy savings. On the construction side, the government wants to think, in 2024, about ways to reduce water consumption in new buildings.

Agriculture encouraged to invest to reinvent itself

The main sector targeted by the 53 measures of this “water plan” remains agriculture. The President of the Republic thus calls on professionals to explore “other cultivation schemes” and to “reinvent agricultural models”. To help them make their transition, several envelopes will be released from next year: 30 million euros per year in favor of water-saving practices; Another 30 million for “hydraulic investment” (creation and modernization of infrastructure, such as the controversial water reservoirs). “The recovery of rainwater from the roofs of agricultural buildings will be largely supported” by aid, for the moment, not specified.

Double site against leaks and for the reuse of water

Another major axis of this “water plan”: the optimization of the resource. It begins with a hunt for leaks on the networks: the water agencies will commit an additional 180 million euros per year to this issue in 2024. This sum will primarily irrigate the 170 local authorities most affected by this scourge. , but also the 2,000 municipalities most in difficulty in their supply.

The government also wants to launch the project for the reuse of so-called non-conventional water, whether rainwater, domestic or treated. In this regard, Emmanuel Macron wants France to catch up. Objective: increase the share of reused wastewater from less than 1% today to 10% in five years.

To do this, the executive is counting on the lifting, as of this year, of “regulatory brakes on [cette] valuation” […] in certain industrial sectors, starting with the food industry, “while respecting the protection of the health of populations and ecosystems”. In the longer term, support for project leaders will be better structured, with the hope of bringing about 1,000 programs of this type before the end of the five-year term.

Money to fuel the “water economy”

Finally, the main difference with the energy sobriety plan, this catalog of measures is accompanied by new financial means. The budget of the water agencies will be inflated by 475 million euros per year from 2024 (envelope against leaks included) with the abolition, the following year, of their expenditure ceiling. “We know that today we need to speed up and do more,” acknowledged Emmanuel Macron. Hence his hope that the opening of this valve of public money will allow, by leverage, to inject, “in total, around 6 billion euros more into the water economy each year. “

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