Tourist boats marooned as drought parches France's river
Water levels in rivers, lakes and reservoirs across western Europe are running low, or even dry, as the severest drought in decades dents local tourism, puts stress on drinking water supplies, hampers river freight and threatens crop yields.
Restaurants and boats companies' business has reduced to a trickle, just like stretches of the Doubs River straddling the French-Swiss border that cruise boats usually ply.
The Doubs River should coarse through a forested canyon and cascade over waterfalls before spilling out into Brenets Lake, a draw for tourists in eastern France's Jura region. After months without meaningful rain, the Doubs River water has receded up the canyon and sluggishly reaches the lake in a narrow channel.
Fewer boat tourists mean fewer meals to serve for restaurateur Christophe Vallier - a painful blow just as he hoped to recover from the COVID-19 downturn.
“It’s catastrophic, simply catastrophic,” he said.
Boat companies now have to bus clients along the gorge to a starting point further upstream to a point in the river where there is enough water for cruise boats to navigate.
Asked how his boat tour had gone, holidaymaker Alain Foubert said simply: "It was a lot shorter than normal."
Conditions have deteriorated across Europe as multiple heatwaves roll across the continent.
As France contends with a fourth heatwave this year, many scientists say the blistering temperatures so far this summer are in line with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather episodes in Europe.
"We hope it’s really an exception to the rule," said the director of the “Saut Du Doubs” boats company, Francoise Droz-Bartholet, whose bookings are 20% lower than usual for the time of year.
Restaurant owner Vallier sees little cause for hope in the future.
"All the Doubs experts say the river is getting drier and drier, so, it’s not good news," he lamented.