VILLERS-LE-LAC (France) — The once deep and coursing waters of the Doubs river in eastern France have shrunken to a dry bed that locals can cross almost without getting their feet wet.
LOSSES FROM UNDERGROUND
September was the hottest on record since 1947, according to Mr Cedric Hertzog, Meteo France’s chief forecaster for France’s Grand Est region.
The rainfall deficit was between 10-15 per cent where the Doubs is located for the meteorological year ending Aug 31.
“It’s missing one month of rain,” Mr Hertzog said.
On top of the drought, water from the Doubs is emptying underground into a neighbouring river.
“Part of the Doubs’s water flow is being lost to the Loue, as the two basins are connected,” said Mr Vincent Fister, hydrogeologist for EPTB, a national water management body.
The river’s disappearance is a catastrophe for the local tourism industry, including a water sports centre on the edge of the lake.
“It’s the second year like this. Last summer, we thought it was an exception,” said Mr Maxime Faivre, who has led water activites for more than 20 years. “But it’s even worse — it’s even lower.”
In 2022, the levels of the river began to rise from the beginning of September, said Mr Antoine Michel, who operates river cruises on the Doubs for a local company.
Due to the lack of water, the company has had to stop taking passengers by boat from Villers. Instead, they are transported by bus 7km downstream to the Bassins du Doubs, a deep gorge where the last of the water remains.
‘WE DIDN’T WANT TO BELIEVE IT’
“We’re losing at least 15cm each day. Every day we lose a bit of area where we can take the boats,” said the captain, who transports tourists at very low speed over a total distance of 5km on the silent, electric boat.
Between the rocky walls, his announcements over the microphone resonate in a sinister echo.
The water level has dropped 11m below the average. On the Swiss side, a fisherman struggled down the rocks to reach the shore.
Torn off tree trunks, left deliberately to serve as fish shelters, are completely dry.
Tourism has taken another hit since the Saut du Doubs, a 27m-high waterfall downstream, stopped flowing early in the summer.
“There has been a sharp drop in tourists: 65 per cent less in July and August, and that’s happened for basically four years in a row,” said Mr Michel, who has lowered his rates.
“We’re very worried about the sustainability of the business.” AFP