French software discovers 20,000 undeclared swimming pools, so far.

French Eye in the Sky Finds Millions in Unpaid Property Improvement Taxes with Google’s Aid

While much of Europe continues to suffer from an overheated summer, it is France that is suffering the most perhaps. France has been tackling its worst recorded drought that has left more than 100 municipalities short of drinking water.
In July, France had just 9.7mm (0.38in) of rain, making it the driest month since March 1961, the national weather service Meteo-France said.
Irrigation has been banned in much of the northwest and southeast of France to conserve water.

So with these major water shortage concerns, can you imagine how the French government might feel if it discovered over 20,000 undeclared and untaxed swimming pools? Yes, that’s the latest news from several news sources including

And they used AI to bring these hidden pools to light.

Hidden Taxes & Needed Water

The French government has collected nearly €10 million in additional taxes after using machine learning to spot undeclared swimming pools in aerial photos. In France, housing taxes are calculated based on a property’s rental value, so homeowners who don’t declare swimming pools are potentially avoiding hundreds of euros in additional payments.

The project to spot the undeclared pools began last October, with IT firm Capgemini working with Google to analyze publicly available aerial photos taken by France’s National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information. The software was developed to identify pools, with this information then cross-referenced with national tax and property registries.

The program began last October on a limited basis, covering only nine out of 96 metropolitan departments. At first, the system confused solar panels for swimming pools with an error rate of 30 percent, but DGFiP says that it has since increased the accuracy.

The project is somewhat limited in scope and has so far analyzed photos covering only nine of France’s 96 metropolitan departments. But even in these areas, officials discovered 20,356 undeclared pools, according to an announcement this week from France’s tax office, the General Directorate of Public Finance (DGFiP), first reported by Le Parisien.

This is a two-pronged issue according to French authorities. It is not just the taxes that were being hidden away but, it is the amount of water that is needed elsewhere. Especially if this drought continues as expected.

An MP for the French Green party (Europe Écologie les Verts) made headlines after refusing to rule out a ban on the construction of new private pools. The MP, Julien Bayou, said such a ban could be used as a “last resort” response. He later clarified his remarks on Twitter, saying:

“[T]here are ALREADY restrictions on water use, for washing cars and sometimes for filling swimming pools. The challenge is not to ban swimming pools, it is to guarantee our vital water needs.”

After the news this summer from the American southwest and in particular Arizona, it is possible that those populations will see restrictions for swimming pool and golf course construction as well. Arizona has been told by the powers that be to expect 21% less water from the Colorado River this year, and that will greatly affect farms and ranchers in the entire state.

Maybe someone can design an AI algorithm that can find a hidden source of water for the great southwest before Lake Powell or Lake Mead dry up entirely.