Jérôme Viaud, the mayor of the French Riviera town of Grasse, told Franceinfo on Monday that he would make the price of water per cubic metre subject to a seasonal rate – more expensive in the summer, and cheaper in the winter.
He told the French news site that the goal is to “raise awareness among all residents, so that we can lower [water] consumption during the most crucial and difficult periods”.
Why the change?
The town of Grasse is currently under a “yellow” alert for water restrictions due to drought.
This is the first of four levels of water restrictions, which are imposed at a local level in France. The ‘yellow’ alert means residents have limited hours for when they are permitted to water their gardens, in addition to some other restrictions on watering sports terrain and golf courses.
READ MORE: MAP: Where in France is under water restrictions in June 2023?
Currently 23 mainland French départements have some level of active water restrictions in place, with the southern part of the country, along the Mediterranean, most impacted.
Of those départements, six had risen to the highest level of water restrictions, the ‘crisis’ level, which involves restrictions on non-priority water withdrawals, such as for washing cars and watering gardens, green spaces, or golf courses. They are: Aude, Bouches-de-Rhône, Dordogne, Gard, Oise, and Pyrenées-Orientales.
As for Grasse, local authorities are particularly worried about whether the situation will worsen in the coming weeks. The Canal du Foulon, which is one of the resources that supplies the town with fresh water, is reportedly almost dry.
On top of that, France experienced an exceptionally dry winter, recording 32 days without rainfall. Though there was some precipitation during the spring, the majority of the country’s aquifers were still at low levels at the start of June, leaving many parts of the country – including southern cities and towns along the Mediterranean – at greater risk for drought during the summer.
How much will the cost go up by?
The new pricing system will bring up increase the cost per cubic metre between the months of June and September, and drop the cost between October in May.
The average resident of Grasse may see their annual water bill rise slightly, but those who consume large amounts of water during the summer may see their bills go up more significantly.
On average a family of four will see their average price of €0.80 per cubic metre year round rise up to €1.00 in the summer months, and drop down to €0.60 the rest of the year.
Grasse is not the only French town to have attempted seasonal pricing for water. Montpellier, Libourne and Dunkerque have all tried ‘progressive pricing’ for water.
In Montpellier this looks like the first 15 cubic metres being free, then costing €0.95 up to 120 cubic metres used, increasing to €1.40 between 120 and 240, and finally to €2.70 per cubic metre for consumption above 240 cubic metres, according to reporting by TF1.
According to the local authorities in Montpellier, 70 to 75 percent of subscribers would benefit from a reduction, but high-consumption households would have to pay more.
French president Emmanuel Macron also mentioned the possibility of using progressive water pricing to discourage over-consumption in his water-savings plan address in March.
Macron also said at the time that the French government would be developing an app, similar to the electricity-saving app EcoWatt, so that households can better track their water usage.