Italy has declared a state of emergency in five northern regions due to drought, until December 31, reports the CNBC. The declaration will help to deal with the situation “with extraordinary means and powers”; the government has announced €36.5 million in emergency funds for the affected regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a statement that “for the Po basin, this is the most serious water crisis of the last seventy years”. He mentioned as causes a rainfall deficit over the last three years and higher temperatures driven by climate change, as well as structural causes including poor maintenance of basins and water networks. Network leakage in Italy is unusually high, he noted, up to 30 per cent or more.
The PM proposed emergency measures, as well as a plan to address infrastructure gaps, and enhanced coordination among the bodies involved in water management.
The drought threatens more than 30% of the agricultural production in the country and half of the farms in the Po valley – an important agricultural region extending some 650 km across northern Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea – according to Coldiretti, Italy’s largest agricultural union.
Water levels in lakes Maggiore and Garda are lower than normal, as is the water level in the Tiber River, flowing through Rome in central Italy. Milan will turn off its ornamental fountains as a water conservation measure, and water restrictions have been announced by several municipalities. The drought is also having an effect on hydroelectric power production.