French Water Plan: From Awareness to Action, the industry still has a long way to go

One year after the government’s grand ambitions were announced, the Water Plan is still struggling to gain momentum in the industrial sector according to Ecolab, the leader in water management solutions. While awareness is real, regulatory barriers and the lack of technical support hinder operational implementation.

On the reuse of treated wastewater (REUT), a key lever for water savings, Thierry Troudet, General Manager of Ecolab France, comments:

“Manufacturers are growing increasingly impatient due to the delay of application decrees, especially in the food production industry where the reuse of water would bring immediate financial gains and water savings. Juste like in the textile and laundry industries, food and beverage manufacturers are ready but waiting for the decree to give them the green light.”

“However, REUT, namely the direct loop reuse of process water, must be the priority even before considering any recycling,” insists Thierry Troudet. “The goal is to maximize this reuse to minimize the production of wastewater to be treated. Recycling just reprocesses waste that we should seek to avoid. Before reaching REUT, it is, of course, vital to train manufacturers to measure and reduce their water consumption. It’s a complete cultural change that will take time, but it has already begun.”

The General Manager even downplays the impact of drought orders this year: “After a very wet winter in 2024 that has replenished the water table, restrictions should be less frequent. But recurrent droughts are just around the corner, so inaction is not an option! On the contrary, we must use this lull to thoughtfully deploy solutions for sustainable water management.”

“Since the launch of the Water Plan, there has been a real awareness among federations and institutions, with many events organized,” acknowledges Thierry Troudet. “But on the ground, the state of readiness in the industry remains very disparate across Regions.”

“One year after the announcements, the verdict is clear: there is awareness, but we are still waiting to see concrete actions,” concludes Thierry Troudet, General Manager of Ecolab France. “Restriction orders are a bigger driver for change, than the Water Plan, which is deemed too political by manufacturers. It is now time to remove regulatory barriers and provide real technical support to turn this awareness into actions.”

The pressure for things to move quickly, is also coming from French consumers: Ecolab’s annual Watermark study, which measures the importance given to water, reveals that the French population is significantly more sensitive than other Europeans to issues such as access to clean and safe water. This civic concern is reflected in their purchasing actions, as half of the French consumers say they have already given up certain products due to the amount of water it takes to manufacture them, a stronger stance than in Germany (39%) or the United Kingdom (31%). Businesses and governments need to take this concern on board.