These cities in which water leaks can be very expensive

According to the latest report from Intercommunalités de France, 198 communities have a leakage rate of at least 50%.

These cities in which water leaks can be very expensive

According to the latest report from Intercommunalités de France, 198 communities have a leakage rate of at least 50%. A scourge as global warming gains ground.

This Wednesday March 20, 2024, Intercommunalités de France publishes a map listing 198 black spots. In other words, the 198 communities that have at least one water service with an efficiency rate of less than 50%, meaning that more than half of the drinking water in this network is lost to nature. The association used the most recent data from the National Observatory of Water and Sanitation Services from 2022 to arrive at this observation. And the results are overwhelming: in 2022, more than 1,000 municipalities will have had tap supply difficulties and 20% of all drinking water in France is lost during its delivery.

"Among these 198 black spots, 151 water services are under isolated municipal management. Several water services can coexist within an intercommunity or a union. When the intercommunity appears on the map, it is not never all of its services which have an efficiency lower than 50%, but generally a few municipalities” we can read in the file. Generally speaking, the rate of return of the network of services with less than 3,500 inhabitants is 74.4%, or 7.4% points below the national average, according to a BDO and FP2E 2023 study. A first observation well below expectations.

This is why one of the fundamental challenges of water management could lie in the transfer to intercommunity. This could in particular make it possible to strengthen the programming of investments with a view to reducing leaks. “There is a real awareness of the need for security for “too much water” but also for “not enough water”. This is the common thread of all our public policies: we have united around the table all users so that people talk to each other and so that we can have a territorial project that meets our challenges" indicates Régis Banquet, president of Carcassonne Agglomération.

The observation is overwhelming for certain territories, particularly the smallest. The village of Astet in Ardèche, 40 inhabitants, occupies the first and sad place in the ranking of municipalities with the highest level of leaks in mainland France: 91%. In the mountains, the networks are the most extensive and the most prone to leaks.

Among the most affected departments are the Pyrénées-Orientales, Hautes-Alpes and Vosges. Towns like Scionzier (Haute-Savoie) with 9,000 inhabitants or Contes (Alpes-Maritimes) with 7,500 souls which is part of a union of fifteen municipalities around Nice and are also particularly affected. This does not only concern small, isolated villages.

According to the French sector, 6.5 billion euros are invested each year. A colossal amount? Perhaps the fact is that “it would take 15 more over 5 years to make up for the investment delay” explains the Intercommunalité. Dizzying figures which must constantly be associated with other factors of the worsening need for investment. Strengthening requirements for the quality of drinking water and for the treatment of wastewater or to secure the supply of drinking water in the face of droughts. Two investment needs which are “not quantified” specifies the file.

“Redoing the pipes over 1km, it’s 1 million, it’s very expensive” continues Régis Banquet in the columns of Libération. “The pipes must be renewed every fifty years so that they are in good condition, but we only renew them every 120 to 140 years. The awareness that we must pay attention to the slightest drop of water is recent " he concludes.

"Small municipalities are in difficulty. We need to regroup and pool to reach a critical size to meet the challenges. In many cases, the intermunicipal scale is coherent but in others, another territorial division may be necessary. " advises Régis Taisne, head of the "water cycle" department at the National Federation of Granting and Governed Communities (FNCCR), still in Libération. The latter gives the examples of Vendée and Alsace-Moselle, which have large water unions. Please note, mutualist management does not always rhyme with guaranteed protection. The metropolis of Perpignan, made up of 36 municipalities, for example, has a total of 60% leaks.