Plateau de Langres (FR)

The Plateau de Langres is a little-known, little-visited and sparsely populated area in north-eastern France. The triple point is quite inconspicuously located in a grain field near the village of Récourt, 160 kilometres west of Basel. Until recently, even the locals knew nothing about it – but now a monument is to be erected to draw attention to the triple point.

To put it mildly, it is not entirely unimportant: from here, the water flows southwards towards the Mediterranean, northwards to the North Sea and westwards to the English Channel and thus to the Atlantic. The plateau is considered a water castle; numerous important rivers have their source here, such as the Seine, the Marne and the Meuse.

And another body of water is of great importance: a canal, the 224-kilometre-long Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne. It connects the Marne and Saône rivers, creating a continuous navigable link between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The canal, which was built in the second half of the 19th century, is the product of a great deal of engineering skill: 114 locks are needed to overcome the difference in altitude between the lower-lying rivers and the Plateau de Langres. At the apex, the canal even leads through a navigable tunnel of almost five kilometres, which passes under the watershed line.

Otherwise, water is rather scarce on the Plateau de Langres. As a result of climate change, the summer has become drier and drier; for the years 2018 to 2020, one has to speak of an actual drought. In the meantime, some farmers are considering irrigating their crops in the future. Others have switched to a greater diversity of crops and varieties to minimise the risk. This is a topic we have dealt with in discussions with local farmers.

Another issue that has preoccupied us is the dispute over groundwater in the town of Vittel. It’s a delicate matter, the battle is hard-fought – that’s why many locals don’t even want to talk to the media. Ultimately, the issue is that the Swiss Nestlé company is tapping the groundwater to fill its Vittel mineral water bottles. This creates welcome jobs, but at the same time it lowers the level of at least one of the groundwater sources. Local activists therefore want Nestlé to stop this extraction. The two parties and the city are currently looking for a compromise.