Expert Word – Water Shortage in Ski Resorts


Every winter, millions of tourists flock to ski resorts to enjoy the benefits of the mountain and surrender to the pleasure of skiing. A seasonal migration generating resources and jobs but which also has an impact on the management of the water resource, the new blue gold of the peaks.

Will there be water in the mountains until the end of the winter? Say like that, in the absolute and without any environmental and economic context, the question can lend to smile. And then with all the snow that fell at the beginning of the season it would be a real shame!

Except that by widening the focal point, one realizes that the management of this resource has become a criterion of attractiveness as well as a factor of development for winter sports resorts and the municipalities that host them.

No white gold without blue gold
A figure to take the measure of the phenomenon: each winter, the population of the town of Les Belleville (which allows access to the resorts of Les Menuires and Val Thorens) is multiplied by an average of 17. In other words, it goes from 3,030 residents to nearly 60,000 residents the time of the winter season. The faucet itself – the watershed – does not change except in exceptional weather conditions.

The tourist forecasts for the current season are encouraging. The National Observatory of Mountain Stations published by the National Association of Mayors of Mountain Resorts and Atout France reveals that the forecasts of attendance for the inter-holiday period appeared satisfactory for 81% of the stations and that 42% of professionals announced even a booking level for winter vacations higher than 2017. And the deal could be the same for the spring break.

A success that inevitably impacts the management of the resource

Mountain water, a resource under pressure
Fewer resources, more people … The daily consumption of water passes then – for all the needs of the commune as regards water, beverages, hygiene or domestic uses – from 400 m 3 to 6 500 m 3 is the equivalent of 360 Olympic swimming pools. A drop of water to produce and distribute!

In such circumstances, water management becomes an issue of attractiveness and development: it conditions not only the reception of the public, but also the preservation of the natural environment as well – and it is more and more the case with climate change at work – the snow conditions of the tracks.

In 2015, a study published in the Review of Alpine Geography also estimated that by 2020, the area equipped with artificial snow could, in the French Alps, exceed 40% of the ski area. This makes equipment and investment for the stations inevitable.

Water does not flow
In fact, more and more ski resorts are opting for a global management of the resource: from raw water collection to sewage treatment and the production of drinking water. Like the town of Belleville as explained by its mayor, André Plaisance: “With this solution, our resorts (Les Menuires, Val Thorens) can cope with the influx of tourists. It is a relevant management mode that contributes to our reputation and development. ”

A choice made even more relevant by the vagaries of the weather and the low fall precipitation that have reduced this year tributary streams to their simplest expression!

As a result, most service providers operating in the field today are developing solutions that blend water use, resource conservation and efficient management with territory-specific facilities and digital solutions.

This is the case of Suez which, with its Visio pilot center located in Caluire-et-Cuire (on the outskirts of Lyon), can monitor and manage remotely and in real time, water and sanitation services. 21 ski resorts in Rhône-Alpes. And generate nearly 15 million data in a process of continuous improvement!


About Savi

Savi is a regular writer and social activist. She also writes for BBC, Huffington Posts and others.

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