Drought: what we know about the government's plan

Drought: what we know about the government's plan


The so-called Acqua decree should arrive at the Council of Ministers this week, an intervention measure on drought which, as the minister of infrastructure and transport Matteo Salvini reiterated a few days ago on the microphones of Tg1, will serve to help Italy, the farmers and entrepreneurs to face the drought that is already palpable now and seems increasingly threatening on the horizon. "As a ministry we will coordinate a control room to boost dams, reservoirs, lakes and reclamation" added the deputy prime minister.

The roadmap had already been marked since March 1, at the end of the control room on the water crisis, chaired by Giorgia Meloni herself, together with the leader of the Carroccio and, among others, the ministers of the Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida, Raffaele Fitto for European affairs, Gilberto Pichetto Fratin for the environment, Roberto Calderoli for regional affairs and Nello Musumeci with responsibility for civil protection and the sea. At the end of the round table it was decided to define an extraordinary national water plan, in agreement with the regions and territorial bodies, to identify the priorities for intervention, but also to work on an urgent regulatory provision for simplifications and derogations to address the drought, as well as the establishment of the figure of an extraordinary commissioner with executive powers with respect to what was programmed by the control room itself.

With this drought, woe to take drinking water for granted Few snowfalls and even scarcer rains are increasingly reducing the flow of rivers and lakes. And 3.5 million risk not having guaranteed tap water

The lack of structural interventions

Outlining a certainly not positive picture of the phenomenon, which had then led to the same meeting at the beginning of the month, it was Minister Musumeci at the end of February who spoke of a situation to be faced no longer from an emergency point of view but from a structural point of view. It is not "only" a question of agriculture, industry and supply to the population: the half-empty dams in fact compromise the supply of energy "which is 20% hydroelectric" specified Musumeci, who then added: "There is never been a structural planning, dams have not been built for decades and urban water networks are often a sieve ” .

In an interview with Radio 24, Musumeci himself spoke of a failure to use the available funds: “There are 4 billion available for water works but the procedures are so disarming, especially the environmental authorizations, for to which an administrator very often resigns himself". There are some priority interventions according to the minister: "It is absurd that in our nation only 10% of rainwater should be used in a year, while in spring and summer farms suffer terribly and in urban centers one is forced to ration Creating farm ponds, freeing dams from silting up and building new ones, using purified water for crops, adapting irrigation systems to new saving techniques: these are remedies that had to be adopted some time ago, amid so much indifference and in the absence of any programming". When asked directly, however, Musumeci denies possible water rationing for Italians, despite the National Association of Basin Consortia speaking of 3.5 million citizens at risk: "Rationing, which is the responsibility of the governors and mayors of the territories, is only an extreme hypothesis that does not exist at the moment” . Meanwhile, however, the Permanent Observatory of the Po River Authority speaks of 19 Piedmontese municipalities - especially in the provinces of Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola and Cuneo - for which the maximum level of water severity has been triggered.

Water arrives in some municipalities in Northern Italy with tankers to cope with the drought According to the Po River Authority, the water stress recorded in January and February is worsening throughout the North West: on 6 .5% of the Municipalities of Piedmont and Lombardy resort to tankers

Rivers and lakes in difficulty

The drought alarm had already been sounded in February. Coldiretti specified that the wave of frost and the snowfalls, after a month of January which had marked almost a degree and a half higher than the average in the north, "do not compensate for the country's heavy water deficit, where in 2022 there was the 30% less rainfall" resulting in lower water storage. Above all, the Po suffers, already tested by a dry 2022: "At the Ponte della Becca in Pavia the Po - they said in February - is at minus 3.3 meters compared to the hydrometric zero, with banks reduced to beaches as in summer" .

Even Legambiente Lombardia a few days earlier spoke of semi-empty pre-Alpine lakes and large lakes already exhausted: in Garda there are 220 million m3 missing for irrigation. The immense water basin that derives from the five lakes that border the pre-Alpine arc is used for irrigation but the situation is already bad: "In relation to the averages of the last 15 years, more than 25% of the water is missing in the Alpine hydroelectric basins normally featured this season". But 2023 could prove to be the hottest year ever with +1.44 degrees above average in the first two months of the year. To say it is an analysis again by Coldiretti on Isac Cnr data, which detects temperatures in Italy since 1800 and also highlights below-average rainfall in the first two months of the year after a 2022 in which 30% of rain fell in less. The anomaly concerns the entire peninsula where the temperature was in any case 0.76 degrees higher in the first two months of the year.

Italy without snow: half of it fell in the Alps In general, snowfall in Italy fell by 45% compared to the previous year. With serious consequences on the water supply of lakes and rivers

The numbers

In the meantime, the drought does not let go in most of the Po Valley. If Emilia Romagna presents some positive indicators, in Piedmont and Lombardy there is still a situation of "full-blown water stress" . This was underlined by the permanent observatory of the Po Basin Authority, which detected practically the same picture as a month ago, worsened in recent weeks by the lack of rain capable of filling, even only in part, the deficit inherited from 2022. This takes place on the eve of an irrigation season for agriculture full of unknowns, where the water available already appears to be insufficient. According to the data of the Basin Authority collected together with the regional Arpa, the flow rates measured in the stations along the Po river in all regions remain, as of March 6, anchored to a state of "extreme or medium gravity". Not only the rivers but also the lakes which maintain minimum quotas are suffering: Garda is currently the one in the greatest crisis with a filling of only 25%, the Maggiore registers a filling of 41.5%. All of this could clearly have repercussions on agriculture: according to Coldiretti, there are about 300,000 farms and farms in difficulty in central and northern Italy, which puts a third of Italian production in the Po Valley at risk.

All n the beginning of March, despite a few days of rain and snowfall on the ridges, the underground aquifers are still suffering in Emilia-Romagna. The province of Reggio Emilia (-80%) is most affected, followed by Modena (-57%) and Parma (-50%), but also Rimini (-49%), Bologna (-47%) and Ferrara ( -35%). The data derive from a survey made in the first two months of 2023 by the Falde Cer-Anbi Observatory. Meanwhile, the phenomenon, it must be said, certainly does not stop at our national borders: the situation of the aquifers in France, for example, "has worsened and is not very satisfactory" after last year and the most recent long period without rain. An official report published by the Bureau des recherches géologiques et minières (Brgm) of Paris speaks of it. "All of the aquifers record levels below the normal ones. 80% are at levels between moderately low and very low", explains the report which speaks of "great uncertainty" for the coming months.

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