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Wet Spring Boosts French Groundwater Levels

Date: 19-Jun-12
Country: FRANCE
Author: Gus Trompiz and Marion Douet

Heavy rain during the spring has significantly improved groundwater levels in France, the country's geological research office said on Monday, making widespread water restrictions less likely during the peak summer demand period.

Dry conditions in autumn and winter, the seasons when water reserves are usually replenished, left nearly 90 percent of French groundwater levels below average, an even bigger deficit than during a drought in the spring of 2011.

But by June 1, 2012, the proportion of below-normal groundwater levels had fallen to 51 percent, helped by plentiful rainfall in April and May, the BRGM said in a note.

"Nationally, while the period of winter replenishment of groundwater was not very effective, spring rain meanwhile had a very beneficial effect on the new trend in the reserve levels observed at the end of May," the office said.

Last year, France experienced the hottest March-May period since 1990 and the driest in 50 years, prompting varying restrictions on water use across much of France.

Underground water reserves are an important source for domestic use, while also helping to maintain the level of surface water heavily used in industry and farming.

A separate note last week from France's environment ministry said most waterways were near or above normal levels.

Rainfall was particularly abundant in April, with weather service Meteo France estimating it at 1.7 times normal volumes, and also slightly above normal last month.

Cool temperatures during April and May also helped replenish groundwater by limiting evaporation, which together with increased vegetation normally reduces the absorption of spring and summer rain into the ground.

Water reserve levels differed across the country, however, BRGM said. Eleven French administrative departments still had restrictions on water use, although this was down from as many as 70 last year.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Marion Douet, editing by Jane Baird)

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