Hossegor: towards water shortage?

Victor writes*

Soorts-Hossegor (or “Hossegor” as the city is called by locals) is located on the western coast of France, and it has always been the perfect place for summer holidays with idyllic beaches and beautiful landscapes. Yet in this heaven-like city, something is increasinly becoming a concern: water. According to the French media, last August (2022) the city decided to stop water use on public showers located by its beaches. Why? Because of an important drought happening at this time which was seriously affecting the city’s water resources.

Other factors may also have played a role in such willingness to economise water. Last summer, Hossegor was also hit by a serious heatwave. In addition to this, tourism is also crucial for the city’s economy with around 40 000 tourists which are expected each summer, contrasting with the approximately 4000 year-round inhabitants. Such an increase in population also impacts water use. As an illustration at the beginning of August 2020, water consumption increased by 20% in the city’s region.

To better understand water scarcity in Hossegor, we need to understand where and how does water is ‘produced’. Hossegor’s water is 100% provided with underground reserves: aquifers. But these are becoming an increasing concern nowadays. As of today (26/02/2023), they are reported to be lower than expected, leading regional officials to worry as the region will know more heat periods and less rainfall in the coming years – making it harder for the city’s natural water reservoirs to fill up again.

This situation does not only concern Hossegor but the entire region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Last year, around 300 municipalities in this area were at risk of or directly impacted by water shortages.

If we focus on Hossegor’s “département” (sub-region in French), namely the Landes, agricultural activities of the inland areas also play an important role in water consumption in addition to tourism on the coastline. Irrigation accounts for 74 % of the total water use for the Landes while 77% of this water comes from ground water reserves and 23% from surface water. In drought situation, the “irrigation calendar” is modified: agricultural exploitation need to start pumping water around one month before the time they would have traditionally done it. As a result, water is a highly sensitive subject for farmers who demonstrated on the matter on the 21st of February.

However, even officials and various reports on the situation of aquifers in the Landes acknowledge that the situation is not dramatically bad for now. According to a recent report, groundwater reserves are low indeed but this can still be ‘fixed’ according to weather conditions before the summer. Everything now depends on the amount of rain the region will receive in the following months. Furthermore, Hossegor’s water situation is far to be as bad as it is in other French regions such as the Pyrénées-Orientales, one of the most impacted départements, in which water is already reserved for the “essential” users even during the winter.

Bottom Line: In Hossegor, water scarcity is very much a reality every summer. However, shortages seem to be only a few years away from reality for the city and its region but people have yet to learn how to deal with water reserves that are harder to replace every year.

* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

One thought on “Hossegor: towards water shortage?”

  1. Hey Victor,

    I find your post very interesting and it points out how the issue of water scarcity gets even worse in summer and how it affects the population. It is shocking that the severity of the drought lead to the city stopping water use on public showers at the beaches. I can imagine that managing water must get even more difficult when there is an increase in tourism, leading to higher demand for water, especially during a heatwave. You mentioned that this issue affects farmers and agriculture, leading them to start pumping out water a month ahead. But in how far is pumping water a month ahead effective in long term prospective? And what is the state/ regulators doing to help those farmers? Also, how can we be sure that the low groundwater reserves can be, as mentioned in the report by Département des Landes, fixed? With the increase of water consumption and heat periods, I feel like solely relying on “hope” for rain does not solve the issue of water scarcity. Do they have any other ideas or projects to manage the water?

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