Drought and Southwest France Weather July 2015

Our well, lovingly restored by the SF
Our well, lovingly restored by the SF

I have been reminded yet again this summer of how tough life must have been for the people who lived in our house up until the 1960s, when mains water was installed. Our property has two citernes (water-collecting cisterns) and a well that is fed by a proper source (spring).

Before they sank the well, which is 12 metres deep, they had to do a round trip of about 3 km to get water from a stream if the citernes didn’t have sufficient water. It was uphill on the way back. This brings to mind the Pagnol novels, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, set in Provence, in which water really was a matter of life or death.

The murky waters of one of the citernes, when we were restoring it
The murky waters of one of the citernes, when we were restoring it

At one point, from mid-June to late July, we had no rain to speak of for 5 ½ weeks. The lawn turned brown and crackly and, although we used water from our well and citernes, some shrubs and trees looked very peaky.

The SF has rigged up electric pumps to draw up the water. One morning, when I turned the tap on the well, nothing came out. I was afraid the spring had run dry, until I realised that the thunder storm of the night before (which brought little rain) had triggered the trip switch in the barn.

Weather assessment for July

We have been applying a subjective weather assessment for nearly 18 years. We assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In July, we had:

Pluses – 27
Zeros – 2
Minuses – 2

Added to the pluses in June (23), this makes 50 days out of 61 when we had good weather. This is in stark contrast to 2014, when July was the worst we have had. July this year was the best.

The chart shows the percentage of plus days each July for the past 18 years (the line is the trend). July is a roller-coaster month and much less predictable than most other months.

Proportion of pluses in July
Proportion of pluses in July

Rainfall

Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. Although July was very dry, we had 46 mm of rain, which is not far off the average of 48.3. However, nearly all of that (44 mm) fell on one day, when we had very welcome, steady rain almost the whole day.

Nonetheless, owing to substantial rainfall earlier in the year, the total for the year to date, 511.5 mm, is slightly over the average, 508.7 mm.

Rainfall 2015 to date
Rainfall 2015 to date

I don’t know what the birds and animals do for water. There are few streams or ponds around here. We put out shallow troughs of water for them, of which they quickly take advantage.

I’ll leave you with a picture of a fox prospecting in the field behind our house, taken a couple of months ago. They are very difficult animals to photograph, since they are on the move nearly all the time. This one stayed still just long enough for me to snap it. On one of our dusk walks recently, we saw two young foxes playing in a field some distance away. But generally they are elusive animals and you don’t often see one.

Fox prospecting at dusk
Fox prospecting at dusk

You might also like:

French Country Life a Century Ago
A Typical Quercy Farmhous (and an Anniversary)
Lovely Lavoirs
A Traditional French Hamlet – Flouquet

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2 comments

    • It’s pretty similar down here. Thank goodness for the day’s rain we had a fortnight ago, otherwise it would be crisis levels. Even so, they are talking about imposing restrictions on household water usage in T&G.

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