Rivers are drying up, reservoirs are struggling to meet demand and farmers say crops are at risk from the irrigation ban and that food yields would suffer.

Water restrictions, including bans on filling swimming pools, car washing and crop irrigation have now been imposed in 50 of mainland France’s 96 departments.

The Atlantic coast and western areas of France face the most severe restrictions, mostly concerning irrigation. Teams of water police have been reported patrolling agricultural areas to enforce the restrictions and can impose fines of up to ¬1,500 for those caught flouting the rules.

The government has also warned of risks of forest fires and possible disruptions to domestic drinking supplies.

However, the Environment Minister Nelly Olin said there would be no return to the drought tax imposed in 1976.

The drought extends across large parts of Europe, with Spain and Portugal experiencing similar problems and imposing similar restrictions on unnecessary usage.

By David Hopkins

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