The violent storms that have hit Corsica in recent days will change little or nothing. “With us, not a drop of rain has fallen since April. How do you expect us to get out of this?” In Rogliano, in the far north of Cap Corse, Patrice Kelecchi points disappointedly at the azure blue sky. The mayor reckons this mountain village is located about fifty minutes’ drive from Bastia. “Of the 48,000 cubic meters of drinking water in the municipal reservoir, only 8,000 are left. Knowing that we consume 550 cubic meters per day, I don’t know if we will be able to hold out until the end of the season”worries the city councilman who also runs the seaside resort of Masinaggio, its 57 stores, its 700-berth marina, and the hundreds of tourists who come from June through September.
Drought associated with precipitation becoming scarce, the island of beauty got used to. But the situation this year is unprecedented. According to Météo France, it rained only 0.6 mm across Corsica in July, compared to the usual rate of 17.6. Between May and July, Corsica also experienced 28 days with above-average temperatures, compared to 21 days in 2003, the year of France’s deadly heat wave.
If the whole of Corsica is undoubtedly experiencing the worst drought in its history, it is actually towards its head, where it rained three times less than it did in 2021, as all anxious eyes turned. Among the main concerns of the inhabitants of the 400-square-kilometer peninsula: the complete absence of dams and other major water storage infrastructure.
In the face of this severe drought, the mayors of the region and the governor of Upper Corse have imposed significant restrictions. Several decisions were made to impose, for example, a ban on washing boats, filling and leveling private pools, and watering gardens, with a fine of 1,500 euros.
These measures were reinforced at the beginning of August after Governor François Ravier’s cry of alarm. Since then, checks have been carried out on a daily basis in the area. “Very few violations were observed compared to the number of censored sites. These controls are well aware by individuals as well as professionals who understand all the risks and efforts that must be made to maintain this public good.”Explains Lieutenant Colonel in the gendarmerie Olivier Doriot. Of the 200 checks carried out between Cap Corse, the Bastia region and the eastern plain of the island, only four were prepared by the police.
Restrictions on drinking water consumption will pay off, according to Haute-Corse County. “In Macinaggio, in Cap Corse, 200 m3 per day have been saved since the beginning of August thanks to the measures we have taken. In the Bastia conglomerate, it is 2,000 m3 per day and 150,000 m3 per day on the eastern plain”Yves Darrow, General Secretary of Haut-Corse County, reports.
In Tomino, a hilltop village overlooking Massenaggio Bay, François Orlandi thought he should turn off the tap to his townspeople. Rather, water cut-off schedules have been set. Finally, thanks to a new well drilled in an emergency on July 14, and above all for the solidarity of the neighboring town of Mireia, which was carrying water from the reservoirs, Tomino was able to hold out. “You didn’t have to be a great clergyman to realize that natural resources would not be replenished as in other years. Especially when we almost double our population in the summer with tourists”François Orlandi, trusts.
In the village, residents and tourists seem to have taken a measure of this phenomenon. Jean-Claude and Jocelyn Rosati lived in Tomino for forty years and decided to install several large rainwater harvesting tanks in their garden in the winter. “I now have four tanks of 1000 liters and a buried basin of 12 cubic metres. This allows us to have water all year round to water my small vegetable garden and above all to avoid using water from the community for this purpose.”says Jean-Claude, who plans to install three more tanks in anticipation of next summer.
At the neighboring Le Tomino hotel, the management decided to issue an awareness sheet in French and English to customers since the beginning of August as soon as they arrived at the facility. Target? “Telling tourists that water is a scarce commodity in Tomino, even when we are on vacation at the hotel. Everyone tells us we made the right decision, it’s very good”confirms Pascal Guillod, chef in the kitchens of the nine-room hotel.
Water shortages also affect farmers in the area. The shepherd couple Aurelie and Pascal Vincigera are forced to seek help from the municipality to water their 60 goats. “Our animals drink about 200 liters a day, and if the mayor doesn’t give us the town’s water, we will undoubtedly lose a lot.”says Pascal, who recently opened a restaurant in Tomeno. “It’s not easy every day when you can’t get to the water when you want it. You can’t wash the balcony with too much water. You find yourself really counting on”he regrets.
Besides emergency solutions to water shortages, elected officials and Cap Corse residents want more sustainable measures. Patrice Kelechi has been struggling for months to install a desalination unit at his village marina, as the Italian island of Capria did fifteen years ago. The work has already begun and the mayor of Rogliano, who has taken a bank loan of 80% of the total amount on behalf of the municipality, aims to commission in mid-September.
“The desalination unit can produce up to 500 cubic meters per day. I hope to be able to connect what I have left in the shared tank to his arrival. That is our only hope.”Patrice Kelechi, Mayor of Rogliano
But this solution, estimated in total at one million euros, is not unanimous. Hot Course County prefers to remain cautious for the time being. “It is an interesting solution, but we have to wait for the judgment of the environmental study. We know that for 100 liters of seawater we can produce 40 liters of fresh water. This means that 60 liters are dumped into the sea and that there is a risk of brine being discharged into the sea. Posidonia meadows, in the heart of the marine protected area “warns Yves Dario.
At the same time, the local authority in Corsica is studying other means of long-term water storage. Regional scheme of the Executive Council of Corsica, Aqua Nostra 2050 It recommends in particular the construction of infrastructures and other water reservoirs, so that they are more efficient and durable. For Gil Giovannigli, Head of the Office of Hydraulic Equipment of Corsica (OEHC), there was a “A real lack of anticipation.” in water management in this remote part of the island. “Everyone is responsible for this difficult situation today. Perhaps we were a little optimistic in the face of global warming and the development of tourism and agriculture in this region. It is not normal that in 20 years, between 2000 and 2020, only 75 million euros were released throughout Corsica To develop large infrastructures for water management.admits.
To anticipate a coming summer that promises to be drier and hotter, elected local officials are seeking “political awareness” On the subject of water. The first Cap Corse Steering Committee, considered a “at risk area”It should be held in September. On the program, the launch of a major consultations for “Better manage our natural water resources by creating new watersheds, fighting waste and creating a water management link between the various municipalities involved”says the OEHC.
The hypothesis of building a large dam on Acqua Tignese, envisaged in the 1970s north of the Cape to accompany the development of a 10,000-bed tourist area, is back thanks to this scorching summer.
“Since this huge tourism project fortunately did not see the light of day, the dam was not built. But it was supposed to allow storage of one million cubic meters of water. We will not have the problems we face today.”François Orlandi, Mayor of Tomeno
The state appears ready to support these more sustainable initiatives, in particular the fight against waste. “In Corsica, 70% of water losses have been recorded. We really need to revise the tightness of some reservoirs and modernize the old networks of fiber cement pipes that often fail. Perhaps the efficiency of water management going to municipal communities from 2026 will allow a better connection between all regions, particularly in Cap Corse”Yves Darrow, the county’s general secretary, predicts. In the meantime, local authorities will probably have no choice but to decide on new restrictions to meet the water shortage.