There is groundwater under 66 % of France. There are four different types of groundwater aquifers
in France, depending on the local geology:
•Unconfined aquifers (no overlying impermeable layer) in sedimentary formations (sandstone,
•Confined aquifers (covered by an impermeable geological formation) under pressure and often
very deep (sand, sandstone and limestone)
•Alluvial aquifers in the vast sand and gravel beds along rivers. Because they are easy to pump and
have a high yield, they provide 60 % of the groundwater withdrawn in France.
•Groundwater in fissured formations. This can be pumped for agriculture and small communities
The groundwater in aquifer formations flows and the water table (or the water level) fluctuates:
•Deep percolation (beyond the root zone) of effective rainfall recharges groundwater aquifers.
•Groundwater flows for weeks or even years, depending on the nature of the formation encountered.
•Percolation and horizontal flow causes the groundwater level to vary.
In an average year, there is an estimated 170 billion m3 of effective rainfall and 100 billion m3
of groundwater flows through aquifer formations.
The spread of contamination within an aquifer formation will depend on:
•the nature of the pollutant
•the physical properties of the medium
•the possible interactions between the pollutant and the solid phase
•the possible mixture with waters of a different nature
It is very important that the exchange of water between groundwater and surface water bodies (the
aquifer system) be well understood. Water flows from one to the other, gaining or losing chemical
properties, making these media interdependent. This was emphasized in the Water Law of January 3,
1992 by the notion of water resource indivisibility.
Groundwater must be integrated into a global management of water resources.
The integrated management of water in a river basin is organized by the SDAGE (Schéma Directeur
d'Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux - Water Development and Management Master Plan).
The Water Law emphasizes the need for water resource management that:
•conciliates socio-economic development and the protection of aquatic environments
•balances the various uses of water in order to guarantee sustainable development
This approach must be:
•global, in order to integrate the whole environment
•supported by an institutional organization able to organize the collective management of the
environment, groundwater and their uses, including human activities
Each of France's six major river basins has been studied to determine its current state and trends,
and development, nature-conservation or remediation objectives.
The SDAGE are a concrete example of this new management. They present a coherent geographical plan
for water resources and the natural environment, have a legal status and have an influence on decisions
taken by the central government and local communities.
The SDAGE make it possible to identify groundwater aquifers that should be managed in priority
due to their strategic interest and their potential.
The principal water legislation in France is the Water Law of January 3, 1992 that created the SDAGE
(Article 3). http://www.ineris.fr/aida/?q=consult_doc/consultation/2.250.
However, groundwater protection has long been a concern (e.g. the Law of July 14, 1856 concerning
the Declaration of groundwater as being in the public interest and protection zones around springs
– Inspection – General operating conditions for spas).
Local communities are responsible for the quality of drinking water as a 'common national heritage'
according to the Environment Code (Article L210-1).
According to the first Water Law (December 6, 1964) and the Water Law of January 3, 1992, the creation
of protection zones is an obligation – all wellheads are declared to be in the public interest. If this
is not done, the water company, the town mayor or the central government can be held responsible.
Three protection zones exist, according to the Public Health Code (Article L.1321-2).
1. The immediate protection zone
The immediate protection zone generally extends a few tens of metres around the wellhead. This
land must be owned by the town.
2. The near-field protection zone
This zone generally extends a few tens of hectares around and hydraulically upgradient of the wellhead.
The objective is to protect the wellhead from the subsurface migration of pollutants.
In this zone, industry or any activity, installation or storage can be forbidden or regulated if
it might present a risk for the water quality (manure spreading, ploughing, fertilization).
3. The far-field protection zone
This protection zone is optional. It should enable the reinforcement of the protection against
permanent or diffuse pollution. The far-field protection zone corresponds to the groundwater recharge
zone and, in some cases, to the entire river basin.
The implementation of protection zones includes both technical and administrative phases. Protection
zones are determined after a hydrogeological study has been done by a certified hydrogeologist.
Their prescription is made by a declaration of public interest (or utility). This process is described
in the Circular of July 24, 1990.
The Order of September 11, 2003 describes regulatory requirements for the declared wellhead.
(Arrêté du 11 septembre 2003 portant application du décret n° 96-102 du 2 février 1996 et fixant les
prescriptions générales applicables aux prélèvements soumis à déclaration en application des
articles L. 214-1 à L. 214-6 du code de l'environnement et relevant des rubriques 1.1.1, 2.1.0, 2.1.1
ou 4.3.0 de la nomenclature annexée au décret n° 93-743 du 29 mars 1993 modifié.).
This order describes the conditions for:
Site Project Funding
The cost of installing protection zones must be broken down into funding of the work carried out and
The work done to create protection zones is financed, in part, by the Water Authorities (up to 60
% of the total cost). For small towns, the National Fund for Water Supply Development (FNDAE - Fonds
National pour le développement des adductions d'eau) can provide additional funds. The department
and the regional authorities may also contribute.
The town, however, does not receive any compensation. Because drinking water and wellhead protection
is considered to be a duty and an obligatory mission, towns receive no financial aid for several wellheads.
No further funding information available on the EUGRIS system