Drought threatens Italy

The problem has drawn together a range of experts in an emergency summit on drought at the Italian civil defence headquarters in Rome on Monday.


“We must take advantage of the actual emergency to raise awareness about responsible use of water,” head of Italy’s civil defence, Guido Bertolaso, told reporters after the meeting.

“Our people must be aware of a more intelligent use of water. As you may already know, we are the country which uses the most water in the whole of Europe and we have to think about this data,” he said.

The Italian government is due to meet on May 4 to decide whether to declare a state of emergency because of the lack of rain which has brought the level of many major rivers to historic lows.

Declaring a state of emergency would help avoid bureaucratic obstacles and ease aid to areas most under threat.

The government, together with climate experts and local administration officials, is working on an emergency plan to save water, whilst respecting the needs of agriculture, energy production and ordinary home users, officials have said.

On the streets of Rome, some locals spoke of the need to change people’s water usage habits.

“We are used to washing ourselves so much that we end up consuming all of our natural fats which protect our skin,” said Silvio.

Another woman, Emanuela, described making this change at home a “civil duty”.

“At least one shower per day is necessary, as is the water to wash dishes, but avoiding waste of water is a civil duty,” she said.

On Thursday, the head of Italy’s industrialists’ lobby warned that the country’s factories could be shut down this summer if a feared worsening of the drought idles electricity plants and causes power cuts, Italian newspapers reported.

Water reserves across the country have fallen to between 20 and 50 percent below average due to the lack of rain and snowfall this winter, according to a report issued on Tuesday by Civil Protection.

The report warned that the unseasonably warm weather could continue, with strong heat waves hitting the country in June.

It said rainfall during the next three months could be close to the average, but the summer’s scarce showers would still leave the country short of its needs.

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