At the edge of the Castillon Lake beach, enclosed between the Alpine mountains at an altitude of 900 meters, there is not even 40 cm of depth left. The water has receded as if under the effect of a high tide.

“When you see this show, it doesn’t make you want to,” sadly admits Serge Prato, the mayor of Saint-André-les-Alpes, a village of some 980 inhabitants which lives in part from tourism.

Heartbroken, the mayor is about to ban swimming because the water level of the lake is five meters below the usual level.

The water park will not open. And the pontoon where electric boats and other pedal boats are rented has its feet dry.

“We are not even going to make a quarter of our turnover. The tourists are already upset and when there are a lot of people, what are we going to be able to offer them?” Despairs Inès Flores, manager from the Bike Beach nautical base.

“In a few decades, we have gone from one drought every five years, to three droughts every five years”, explains Claude Roustan, president of the fishing federation of this department in south-eastern France.

With global warming, the intensity and frequency of drought episodes are likely to increase even if the world manages to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era, according to experts of the United Nations for the climate.

– Already like the end of summer –

In this corner of the French Alps, a winter with little rain and snow in the Val d’Allos created a “historic” hydrological situation, explains Olivier Savoye, territorial delegate for the electricity company EDF for the Verdon.

Dams and artificial lakes were built on this river in the 20th century to ensure the production of electricity but also the water supply from Provence to Marseille and its irrigation.

With their emerald waters, the five lakes and the gorges – the largest canyon in Europe – have also become high places for nautical leisure with a million tourists a year, many of whom are Dutch, Belgians or Germans. But this year, activities will be reduced.

EDF, which has maintained a minimum flow in the Verdon to preserve wildlife, will not release water in the gorges, compromising an entire rafting season for the first time.

The famous Lac de Sainte-Croix is ​​at a late summer level. Nautical activities are maintained for the moment but what will happen in August?

Further north, on Lake Serre-Ponçon, the largest artificial lake in France, water sports (9 beaches, 15 nautical bases, 12 ports) as well as agriculture are threatened, worries the Provence-Alpes region. -Côte d’Azur which promises to help adapt the structures to these “new issues of disruption”.

“Inhabitants and tourists alike must be aware of this exceptional situation”, insists the prefect of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Violaine Démaret.

– “Changer” – 

It will also be necessary to encourage additional activities (mountain biking, hiking) in this land of lavender, even if the recent fire of 1,800 hectares in a nearby military camp has reminded us that drought also weakens vegetation.

“Are we going to be able to do electricity, agriculture, rafting and kayaking at the same time?”, asks Jacques EspItalier, vice-president of the Verdon Regional Natural Park.

“We are in the country of Manon des sources (Marcel Pagnol’s novel) but it is not everyone’s source and their water”, insists Violaine Démaret when certain hamlets with dried up sources must be supplied with drinking water.

Each player will have to make concessions: EDF has “sacrificed” its hydroelectric production for six months to preserve other uses, explains Ms. Démaret.

“What’s the point of granting building permits if we have water problems?”, thinks aloud the mayor of Castellane, Bernard Liperini who now hesitates to attract 500 more people to his town of 1,600 inhabitants as he was considering.