Waterways run dry as crippling Italian drought shifts southwards

·2 min read
AFP - MIGUEL MEDINA

Italy is suffering its worst drought in 70 years due to heat surges and lack of rain. Many major rivers in the country are facing levels more than half-down, with experts saying agricultural production will be seriously compromised this year.

While Italy has witnessed some heavy rains in recent days in Valle d’Aosta which have slightly improved the situation in northern areas, the country's water observatory ANBI said that the epicentre of the drought has now shifted southwards to central regions.

One of the worst affected rivers is Italy’s longest, the Po River, which has significantly dried up and is now three quarters down.

The Po is vital for irrigation just like other Italian waterways: the Arno, the Aniene and the Tiber, all of which have much less water this summer.

Lakes in the north are facing a similar scenario and are emptying out due to the lack of snow.

Fears for agricultural production

Experts say that the regions now being affected in central Italy are the Marche, Tuscany and Lazio.

90 percent of the Tuscan territory is in a situation of extreme drought and the significant drop in precipitation in the Lazio and Marche regions has water resources in those areas being described as “dramatic” and the risk of water rationing increasing everywhere.

Italy’s agricultural association Coldiretti has warned that 30 percent of national agricultural production and half of livestock farming in the Po valley are at risk and this situation is likely to spread quickly to other areas of Italy.

Some regions have already begun to restrict water usage as they wait for the government to declare drought state of emergency in regions that have requested it, in the hopes of obtaining funds from the national government that will help deal with financial losses that businesses will be facing because of the drought.

Water rationing

In the northern region of Lombardy, regional governor Attilio Fontana has already declared a state of emergency and asked the population to minimise water consumption at home and be very careful with how water is being used.

He signed a decree which restricts to what is essential the use of drinking water and outlaws its use for irrigation of football pitches and golf courses, washing cars and streets.

In Milan ornamental fountains have also been switched off to save on water supplies.

Not only Lombardy but other northern regions including Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna are all evaluating water rationing measures such as bans on filling swimming pools.

Soaring temperatures which have exceeded 40°C in cities like Rome could worsen in coming days with the population finding it very difficult to find ways of cooling down.

Rome’s water board has begun lowering the pressure in pipes so that supplies are reduced without having to be suspended.

The regional government of Lazio has already said it was declaring a “state of calamity” as different municipalities announce the need to ration water.

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