Water around the world

At a time when the world's need for water is constantly increasing, awareness of the fact that this resource is finite is finally taking hold. It now seems clear that climate change is having an impact on the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods, accentuating the fragility of our water reserves. Not to mention growing urbanization and, more generally, the artificialization of land, which can be seen as major obstacles to the sustainable management of water resources. The challenges facing water resources in the years ahead are therefore to do everything in our power to preserve the quantity and quality of freshwater available to human populations, as well as to all living organisms.

At a recent conference in October 2022, WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank argued that governments must invest strategically in the construction of drinking water systems, strengthening not only financing, but also "the capacity to plan, coordinate and regulate service delivery, so that the world can achieve universal access to safe drinking water and mitigate the effects of climate change ".

A quarter of the world's population still has no access to drinking water...

In France, thehe issue of megabassins

Recent conflicts over irrigation practices in agriculture have pitted farmers against environmental groups. Lauded by some farmers for whom they are a necessity, denounced by opponents, singled out by scientists... megabasins create discord. The principle behind this system is simple: to retain water, mainly when rainfall is positive in winter, by means of dams, or by digging reservoirs that are fed by pumping from groundwater or rivers.

What's more, some opponents argue that these basins and other water pumping systems would only benefit 10% of farmers, mainly cereal growers and those who cultivate water-hungry corn. It would seem, then, that these initiatives have more to do with private interests than with the fruit of genuine consultation on local nature reserves, a common good if ever there was one.

While for the FNSEA, water storage is "an issue of general interest", scientists believe that basins are "a maladaptation ". Building a dam or basin to store surplus water in winter clearly means that this water will not end up in the soil. Other opponents call this a "water grab" and intend to defend their vision of the environment, advocating above all a type of sustainable agriculture.

Local authority management

In the face of new climate challenges, the hunt for water leaks in France's drinking water networks has just been included in the government's "Water" plan. It is estimated that 20% of the water distributed in France is lost through leaks. Depending on the department, this could mean... almost one liter in five! Among the main causes identified: "internal and external corrosion of pipes, problems of soil compaction and deformation, wear and tear on joints between pipes, and the fragility of individual connection points on public pipes". In this respect, it's hard not to mention the obsolescence of a large part of France's drinking water network, the main finding being that the country's pipes were installed over half a century ago. What's more, only 0.61% of the 850,000-kilometer drinking water network is renovated each year.

Today, leaks can be located using a variety of methods: acoustics, tracer gas or even drones equipped with sensors for camera inspection of sewer networks. As a result, local authorities are looking to optimize their surveillance. The results vary from one geographical area to another. Twelve urban areas show leakage rates at least 10 points higher than the legal limit of 15%, set in 2012. For rural communities, tolerated leakage can be as high as 35%.

According to the latest UFC-Que Choisir report, around a quarter of towns with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants actually lose one liter in two. Detection, maintenance and replacement operations therefore require substantial investment. It is therefore very difficult, if not impossible, for small communities lacking the human and financial resources to carry out such work. Local authorities should be able to count on help from the State. From 2024, as part of its "water" plan, the French government intends to mobilize 180 million euros a year to "urgently" absorb water leaks in France, at the most sensitive points.

Spring water professionals

On the whole, most mineral water producers' wells are deep, and therefore somewhat unaffected by the current drought. Nevertheless, recurrent heat waves and falling rainfall in many parts of France are threatening groundwater replenishment and the shallowest wells of mineral water producers. Such is the case for Nestlé Waters' two wells in the Vosges, which are particularly shallow. The company, which also operates the Vittel, Contrex and Perrier brands, intends to "accelerate the implementation of measures designed to improve the resilience of its activities".

Another example: Wattwiller, which bottles Alsace mineral water, announced last year that it would cap its water production in order to preserve its spring. In the Puy-de-Dôme region, Volvic (Danone Group) has also had to reorganize its activities to better manage its springs.

Two boreholes dedicated to Hépar water have also been closed indefinitely. In any case, the drought represents a new challenge for bottled water distributors, with the vagaries of the weather clearly affecting the availability of water resources at these boreholes.

Another problem is water quality, with plastic microparticles found in bottles... Nearly 80% of bottled water is contaminated by these microplastics, whose presence varies from brand to brand...

The main plastics found were polypropylene, polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate... Volumes captured and water quality, brands are now forced to adapt in order to solve these long-term problems.


Water is a major challenge for the 21st century. Indispensable to all living things on earth, including humans, agriculture and industry, water can no longer be considered an unlimited resource. The alarming fact is that this resource is becoming increasingly scarce, against a backdrop of recurring droughts and floods... and the terrible situation faced by two billion human beings who still have no access to drinking water.

Unfortunately, these findings are likely to worsen over the coming decades, particularly in view of climate change. As for the funding required to meet the major challenges raised, estimates are tricky. However, a study quoted in a recent UN report estimates the investment needed to achieve "Sustainable Development Goal 6" on water and sanitation for all at over $1,000 billion a year by 2030. In order to guarantee universal and equitable access to drinking water supply by 2030, it would be essential to triple current levels of investment... Essentially public?