canal-de-la-Siagne retour sources

Water has always been scarce in our Mediterranean regions. Sources, wells, cisterns sparingly fed towns and villages. But towards the end of the 19th century, with the development of coastal towns such as Cannes and the Grasse industry, water shortages became a problem for all. A canal deviating the Siagne waters became a necessity.

In 1850 two projects thus emerged. The first one, the "Bosc project", aimed to deviate water from Saint-Cézaire in order to supply the town itself as well as Cabris and Le Tignet.
The second one, the "Ponts et Chaussées project", planned to draw water from Auribeau in order to supply it as well as Pégomas, La Roquette, Le Cannet and Cannes. Neither met with success. Ten years later, the population of Cannes had doubled. Benefiting from the support of emperor Napoléon III during a stay in Nice, recently attached to France, the project re-emerged.

On the 31st of January 1862, the city of Cannes passed a treaty with the Dussard and Cellier company, related to the town's water distribution and the construction of the canal. The deviation project from Auribeau, studied by the Ponts et Chaussées (Highways Agency), was abandoned. The project was rethought on the scale of Siagne pond and included Grasse. Its source was in Saint-Cézaire, the spot specified in the Bosc project. But unlike the latter, it does not plan to supply any of the neighbouring towns, as the canal is designed to flow underground.

From the moment of its publication in 1865, the pre-project generated violent reactions from the communes. They met to hold an extraordinary Council in the autumn. According to Saint-Cézaire: "(...). This project, if it were to be approved, would deprive us forever of the Siagne waters". Cabris was even more worried: "The Mayor informs the council of the Siagne waters irrigation project that it aims to deviate a part of the waters of this river which is necessary to supply not only the commune of Cabris, but also those of Saint-Cézaire and Le Tignet, both of which have almost no access to water during the summer season. It is thus a question of life and death for these three communes."

The council referred to the Bosc project and rejected the "Dussard and Cellier project". Grasse was also hostile to the project and discussed it on the 17th of October 1865. In view of public opinion, the Ponts et Chaussées engineer offered to abandon the project and promote the construction of a canal that would start at Saint-Cézaire and supply all the communes, including Grasse. On the very next day, the city of Cannes formally requested the Company to begin work on the project within the two years following the signing of the treaty. The Company requested from the Prefect that he quiet the opposition, especially that from the Ponts et Chaussées engineer.

On the 29th of March 1866 the minister decided in favour of the Dussard and Cellier company's project and requested the opening of a public inquiry. This took place as from the 5th of April 1866; the composition of the Study Commission was highly contested by the government's own engineers. The numerous oppositions underline that the canal passes too far below the St Cézaire, Cabris, Le Tignet and Grasse localities. These communes prefer the Bosc project which would supply the inhabitants with drinking water and irrigate the land without harming the lower communes, or Grasse.

Despite the opposition, the project is recognised as being of public utility and is adopted by decree on the 25th of August 1866. The decree approves the contract established on the 21st of August 1866 between the Minister of Agriculture and Public Works, the Mayor of Cannes, and Mr Dussard and Mr Cellier, acting on behalf of the English General Irrigation and Water supply Company of France limited. This contract granted the company a 50-year concession over the Siagne and Loup canal that would then be passed on to city of Cannes for an unlimited period of time.

The construction of the main branch of the Canal was finished on the 16th of August 1868. The city of Cannes boasted: "Cannes was ecstatic; in the presence of five to six thousand of the inhabitants of Cannes and its neighbouring communes, the town celebrated the inauguration of the Siagne Canal." Although the future was bleak for the forgotten Northern communes, those situated between Cannes and Grasse experienced significant economic, industrial and agricultural development. Their drinking water network also expanded. Thanks to the Canal, Mouans-Sartoux, Mougins and Le Cannet were able to develop the cultivation of perfume plants.