Italy’s worst drought in 70 years has led the country to declare a state of emergency in five northern regions.
Several municipalities have already announced water rationing, including the popular cities of Verona and Pisa.
The drought is the result of a severe heat wave wreaking havoc on the country, combined with around 50% less rain than at the same time last year.
It is also causing forest fires at a rate three times the average. So far in 2022, at least one fire has been recorded every two days, according to Coldiretti, Italy’s national farmers’ confederation.
The extreme heat also had other devastating effects. Monday, a section of the Marmolada Glacier in the Italian Alps collapsed killing at least seven people.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the event was “undoubtedly” linked to climate change.
Italy’s worst drought in 70 years
After four months of almost no rain, the north Italy is struggling with its worst drought since 1952. Po Riverthe longest in Italy, has reached record low water levels.
High temperatures and lack of snow in the mountains that normally feed the river are making the situation worse.
Stretching from the Alps in the northwest to the Adriatic Sea on the east coast, the vast waterway is a vital source of water for several regions. It is used for drinking water, crop irrigation and hydroelectric power generation in northern Italy.
Other rivers are also drying up. The Arno, which crosses Florence and supplies tap water, and the Tiber, which crosses Rome, both had water levels half of what is normal for June. Lakes Maggiore and Garda were also affected by lower than normal water levels for this time of year.
Where has Italy imposed emergency measures?
Five regions in northern Italy have declared a state of emergency. Emilia-Romagna, Fruili Venezia Guilia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto have received €36.5 million in emergency funds to deal with water shortages.
The state of emergency endows these regions with “extraordinary means and powers” to ensure public safety, such as the establishment of water rationing.
More than 100 municipalities in the Po Valley have already been asked to ration water overnight during drought too.
Rome is in a “state of calamity”
We are also increasingly concerned about hydroelectric power stations, which have generated about 40-50% less electricity in recent months. A plant in Piacenza, in the Emilia-Romagna region, has already been forced to temporarily shut down its turbines due to low water levels in the river.
In Lazio, the region around Rome, regional governments independently declared a “state of calamity” in June.
This saw water restrictions imposed in several municipalities around Lake Bracciano, 32km northwest of Rome. The measures banned the use of water for washing cars, watering gardens and cleaning outdoor patios.
In the capital, the city’s water department is lowering the pressure in the pipes so that the water supply is reduced without having to be suspended.
Travel advice for water bans in Italy
There are currently no restrictions on visits to Italy due to the drought. However, travelers should pay attention to emergency measures such as water rationing.
In Verona and Pisa, drinking water cannot be used to fill swimming pools, water vegetable gardens, gardens and sports fields, wash cars or for any activity not strictly necessary for human needs. Rationing will remain in place until August 31 and people who break the restrictions could be fined up to €500.
In Villorba, a municipality in the Veneto region, residents are not allowed to water gardens, wash cars or fill swimming pools between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The ban is in effect until September 30.
Some local councils are considering a restriction on the use of water for fountains and water parks. In Milan, decorative public fountains have been turned off and water sprinklers limited. Similar measures have been introduced under the state of emergency in the neighboring municipalities of Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont.
The Italian Amusement Parks Association has suggested using filtered seawater at attractions near the coast. Other parks may be forced to close.
Rome’s emergency measures could see public fountains shut down, as happened during a drought in 2017. A ripple effect could be more people buying single-use items. Plastic bottles, used for minutes before taking hundreds of years to decompose.
How long will the drought in Italy last?
The drought is currently showing few signs of easing, as Italy’s busiest summer season kicks off. The summer promises to be hot with little precipitation. The water level of the Po River continues to drop.
The restrictions introduced in the coming weeks are expected to remain in place until the end of the summer.