During the first months of 2022, unexpected, higher-than-usual temperatures have taken Italy by surprise, which for months has also been deprived of significant rainfall for months. According to Secretary-General of the River Po district authority Meuccio Berselli, some Northern regions didn’t see rain in 110 days.
Another factor contributing to the water crisis is the lack of snow in the Alps.
“The snow in the Alps in Piedmont and Lombardy has totally run out,” said Utilitalia, a federation of water companies. “If this helped to replenish the flows of the Po in May, the large reservoir that usually acts as a buffer in the summer months is depleted. All the measurement stations along the Po, with the exception of Piacenza, are in severe drought conditions, with flow rates well below the average for the period.”
This combination of heat, lack of rainfal, and significantly less snow in the winter has caused the worst drought in seven decades along the 650km (400-mile) Po River, which stretches from the Alps in the north-west and flows through the Po delta all the way to the Adriatic Sea near Venice, crossing several important cities in Northern Italy including Turin and Piacenza as well as some of Europe’s most important agricultural zones, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto.
According to Italy’s river observatory, the demand for water in the Po Valley, which accounts for nearly half of Italy’s population, is high while the supply is running out. As Berselli told Italian news agency ANSA on Wednesday, the water supply has been so low in some towns across the Piedmont and Lombardy regions that water had to be brought in by trucks.
“The local reservoirs are fed by sources that no longer exist,” Berselli said.
And with no rain forecast, the crisis is only set to get worse, warns the river observatory, underlining that some parts of the Po valley are forecast to reach 36°C this week.
With Po valley being the most densely populated area in Italy and its most important industrial and agricultural region, the situation threatens to severely impact agricultural activities as well as commercial shipping. Hoping to prevent this and resote reservoir levels, Utilitalia has asked for the nightly suspension of drinking water supplies in 125 towns, 100 in the Piedmont region and 25 in Bergamo province in Lombardy.
Overall, this is the second major water crisis in the west, preceded by the situation in the US two weeks ago: Loss of water in the Colorado River Basin that could result in severe water cuts across four US states, affecting millions. This is yet another confirmation of the devastating, and inescapable effects of climate change. While the worst climate change impacts have so far disproportionately affected the developing world, they are now evidently beginning to hit the Western world as well, going as far as causing water rationing in Europe and the US.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Italy’s River Po is at risk of drying up. Featured Photo Credit: Samuele Gallini, via Euronews.