Any discussion of energy and sanitation in France inevitably leads to the production of electricity from various sources and the attempts by national and local authorities to satisfy public demand for water and sewage facilities. At present the country depends heavily on energy production from nuclear power while water and sewage constantly occupy the minds and deliberations of the authorities’ and the people.
Energy, water and sewage
The importance of energy, water and sewage for the health of a country’s population requires constant vigilance to ensure that the health and livelihood of the population is not jeopardized. France is no exception.
The main electricity generation company in France is Électricité de France (EDF), which generates and distributes power supplies in the country. The company was formed as a result of government’s nationalization policies in 1946 which saw a number of energy producers, transporters and distributors being forced out of business in favor of a single government majority owned entity to supply energy for the country.
The company is now a limited-liability company corporation with government retaining substantial ownership in the company.
- The use of solar energy in France is gaining in popularity due to the decline in their prices and the introduction of government subsidies that were introduced in 2006 to foster the marketing of panels. Additionally, the generation of energy from the power of water has maintained its popularity with 3 hydroelectric dams in operation: the Equzon dam, Etang de Loulcem and the Lac de Vouglans.
- The generation of power from the prevailing winds in France will shortly add volume to the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources. The president of the country confirmed the first tendering process on January 2011 to build the first of France’s offshore wind farms. The farms, which will be built off the Atlantic coast, are expected to generate 3GW of electricity. The building of another farm for generating a similar voltage will be processed in 2012.
Energy production by source
About 74.5% of total electricity production is generated by nuclear fission while hydroelectric power provides 16.2%. Electricity generation by thermal energy provides 9.2% and wind power together with other renewable sources generating a low 0.1% though the figure is expected to increase in the future.
- Treatment: The task of treating water supply, sewerage and wastewater belongs to the municipal authorities of France. In 2008, there were 15,250 water treatment plants and 17,300 wastewater treatment plants. About one million tons of sludge is produced from the treatment of wastewater and half is used in agriculture. The total length of the sewer and water network in France measures about 800,000 km.
- Sources: France gets its supply of water from surface water and underground water. Surface water is provided by manmade canals such as the Canal de Marseille which runs through Coudoux, supplying? of Marseille’s drinking water from the Durance River. Underground water is obtained from wells by pumping to the surface. The total domestic use of water in France is about 6 billion cubic meters or only 3% of total runoff which is around 191 billion cubic meters. Most of the drinking water supply comes from groundwater (62%) while surface runoff provides 38%.
- Access: A survey carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1995 indicated that 370,000 permanent residents in rural areas or 0.5% of the total population had access to piped water supplies. Their supply is derived from 30,000 water sources, mostly wells. However, government plans to increase the access rate to 100%, improve the quality of water by building protective areas around all wells and springs as well as sustaining water supply by increasing production storage and connections between existing networks.
Although most of the country’s population is able to rid its wastewater into sewers, it remains a fact that about 12 million people or 18% of the total population use home provided sanitation systems such as septic tanks. It has been noted that out of a total of 41 million residents of rural areas, about half are connected to a sewer system. This means that just over 10 million people need to be connected while, for various reasons, it has not been possible to connect another 9.6 million.