AFP, published on Thursday, August 11, 2022 at 12:42 p.m
“As a child, I could never have imagined having a swimming pool!” Clotilde marvels as she sprays her nephew in the brand new family pool in Verlinghem (North). Aided by rising temperatures, these constructions are proliferating in Hauts-de-France, raising questions at a time when France is running out of water.
Wearing orange armbands and roaring with laughter, Basile, 3, spins over the water in his father’s arms. “This swimming pool gives family life a new dynamic,” says Clotilde Sanz. For her, her sisters, her children, the parental home has been “even more of a place of life, of reunification” for a few months now.
Born out of prison, “this project changes our lives. As soon as we wake up, we’re on vacation!” enthuses his father Frédéric Sanz, who will now be “much more” reluctant to travel in the summer.
“Since the Covid-19 crisis, we have increased our turnover sevenfold,” confirms Vincent Brisse, commercial director of “Sensassion Piscine”, their installer. “When I started in 2003 we were selling about twenty a year. Today there are more than a hundred.”
According to the Federation of Swimming Pool Professionals (FPP), of the 3.2 million private swimming pools that existed in France, 135,000 were in Hauts-de-France at the end of 2021, compared to fewer than 30,000 in 2005.
– “Nonsense” –
Only 7% of individual homes in the region now have it, but the rise in temperature is “helping the market to develop,” observes FPP General Delegate Joëlle Pulinx-Challett.
“Swimming pools have also gotten smaller and cheaper” and offer “less affluent customers an opportunity to access them,” notes Laurent Piette, salesman of “kit” pools.
In a burnt lawn garden in Leforest (Pas-de-Calais), he helps a client finish his pool. This part of the department is not yet set to “Drought Alert”, so there is an opportunity to occupy it.
“We always act against the wall. Restrictive measures should be taken in good time,” laments Arnaud Gauthier, water teaching and research scientist at the University of Lille.
At a time when France is experiencing its worst drought since 1959, “building swimming pools is nonsense,” he truncated. Some French municipalities “are even actively considering changing local urban plans to limit their development,” he notes.
In 2020, each Frenchman consumed an average of 148 liters of drinking water per day (54 m3/year), according to the National Observatory of Water and Sanitation Services (Sispea). With significant geographical differences: 232 liters in the Alpes-Maritimes versus 116.6 in the north. “The climate, the potential impact of swimming pools,” partly explains it, Sispea said.
– “scapegoat” –
“Private swimming pools account for 0.1% of total water consumption in France,” replies Joëlle Pulinx-Challett. If the first filling is consumer (approx. 45 m3), only a third of the water is renewed annually.
“It can account for 15% of a family’s consumption,” analyzes Nicolas Roche, a researcher at the European Center for Research and Education in Environmental Geosciences (CEREGE). But “watering your 100m2 lawn for a month will use ten times more,” he adds, calling for “avoiding the scapegoat policy.”
Water, which is essential for all activities, will become scarcer in the future and “priority uses must be accounted for locally,” he stresses. He calls for “giving an ecological value to the water”, with a fluctuating price in the summer “when it is less available”, and “essential” or “recreational” depending on the use.
In the Artois-Picardie basin, “the yearly available volume is now fully exhausted, we no longer have a margin,” warns the director of the regional water authority, Thierry Vatin. A third is used in the summer, mainly for agriculture, whose demand is growing. “With excessive leisure use on top of that, we exaggerate.”
“Our goal is to reduce consumption by 10% within six years,” he says. The allocation between user types will soon have to be decided in “local commissions” involving all parties. “Everyone has to save money.”
Some elected officials advocate progressive pricing: a free amount of water for basic needs, then a high price above a certain threshold.