This is a project that starts at the right time when the South is thirsty. The Canal de Provence, which distributes water from Verdon throughout the region, will begin a €400 million renovation to better irrigate the southeast. According to its development director Benoît Moreau, the project, voted on by the latest board of directors of the company managing the work, SCP, aims to “prepare the Bouches-du-Rhone and the Var for climate challenges.”
Specifically, $150 million will be used to secure infrastructure, for example by installing lift pumps on existing reserves. “A large number of pipes starting from the main canal were built in the 1970s. We have to double them to prevent them from breaking, or increase their flow to meet the growing demand,” explains Benoît Moreau. This is the case of an underground pipe route between the Valtréd and Lavera valleys, south of Martigues, which should create redundancy for the water supply of the Etang de Berre refineries.
60% water deficit
The remaining 250 million are earmarked for network expansion in drought-affected areas. The main service that needs to be strengthened is the center Var. While there has been little to no rain in the region since February, almost the entire department has been placed on high alert, placing usage restrictions on residents, industrialists and farmers.
“This is the driest spring since our research began in 1959,” points out Météo France, which has recorded an accumulation of just 64 millimeters of rainfall in the region since the start of the year, compared to the usual three times more.
In April, his sensors already noted a water deficit in the soil from 40% to 60%. At the end of May, 75 municipalities of the department were put on high alert, and with them all services for the protection and fight against forest fires, the area of u200bu200bwhich covers two-thirds of the department. “There is a danger to fauna and flora,” warns Eric Hansen, director of the Pac and Corsica branch of the French Biodiversity Authority.
Even if the announced works clearly do not solve the current dry situation, experts fear that the water shortage will become structural.
10,000 ha additional irrigation
This means that the UKZZ investment program is expected. By 2027, 20,000 ha or a third of the agricultural land of the Var and 30 to 50 municipalities in the department should be connected to the Canal de Provence. The network expansion project will also affect the Luberon in Vaucluse and the Valensole plateau, famous for its lavender, with additional irrigation of 10,000 hectares, carried out from underground pipes with a diameter of 20 centimeters to 1.2 meters.
Major roadworks are planned, some of which will require impact studies and utility provision. “Our work is important for the life of the region,” insists Benoît Moreau.
Since 1969, its water, taken from Verdon, has supplied 70,000 hectares of agricultural land (half of the region’s irrigated area), more than 8,000 industrial facilities and 2 million inhabitants (including 40% of the consumption of the city of Marseille) thanks to 216 kilometers of canals. , 82 local dams and reservoirs and nearly 5,000 kilometers of pipelines. “The stocks created at Verdon make it possible to guarantee runoff during a two-year dry period,” the UPC says.
Two other monumental canals circulate the region’s waters: the Durance Canal, operated by the EDF mainly for energy purposes, and the Marseille Canal, built during the reign of Louis Philippe. In contrast, the Canal de Provence is largely underground. “By limiting evaporation, we recover 85% of the water we withdraw where others could lose more than a quarter of the resource,” continues Benoît Moreau.
One part of his work will further improve this indicator. It provides for photovoltaic coverage of 13 kilometers of open channels out of 70 possible. In addition to protecting the resource, the installation will allow the panels to be directly cooled to increase their performance and produce enough to achieve carbon neutrality in the grid. Investments amount to 15 million euros.