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Italy Has Declared a State of Emergency Because of Drought: ‘There Is No Doubt That Climate Change Is Having an Effect,' the Prime Minister Said

Massimo Pinca | Reuters
  • The Italian government declared a state of emergency on Monday in five regions because of a drought caused by lack of rain and rising temperatures.
  • "For the Po basin, this is the most serious water crisis of the last 70 years, according to analysis by the Po River District Basin Authority," Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.
  • The Po River runs east across the northern part of Italy from the Pian del Re of Monte Viso to the Adriatic Sea near Venice, and is the longest river in Italy.
This picture taken on July 2, 2022 in Rome shows the low water level of the river Tiber near the Vittorio Emanuele II bridge, revealing an ancient bridge built under Roman Emperor Nero (Bottom).
Andreas Solaro | AFP | Getty Images
This picture taken on July 2, 2022 in Rome shows the low water level of the river Tiber near the Vittorio Emanuele II bridge, revealing an ancient bridge built under Roman Emperor Nero (Bottom).

The Italian government declared a state of emergency on Monday in five regions because of a drought caused by lack of rain and rising temperatures.

To help the regions that have been especially hard hit, Italy is sending $37.5 million in relief funds distributed to the Emilia-Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto regions, according to a statement by the Italian government.

"For the Po basin, this is the most serious water crisis of the last 70 years, according to analysis by the Po River District Basin Authority," Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday, in a translation of the statement.

The Tiber River, which flows through central Italy and Rome and is seen flowing under the famous Vittorio Emanuele II bridge in the image above, is also running at very low levels.

Damaged soy plants affected by salty seawater flowing into drought-hit River Po are pictured in Porto Tolle, Italy, June 23, 2022. Picture taken 23, 2022. 
Guglielmo Mangiapane | Reuters
Damaged soy plants affected by salty seawater flowing into drought-hit River Po are pictured in Porto Tolle, Italy, June 23, 2022. Picture taken 23, 2022. 

The Po River runs east across the northern part of the country from the Pian del Re of Monte Viso to the Adriatic Sea near Venice, according to European Commission data. It is the longest river in Italy and 17 million people, or one-third of the total population, live in its basin.

A barge that was sunk during WWII lies on Po's dry riverbed as parts of Italy's longest river and largest reservoir of freshwater have dried up due to the worst drought in the last 70 years, in Gualtieri, Italy, June 22, 2022. 
Guglielmo Mangiapane | Reuters
A barge that was sunk during WWII lies on Po's dry riverbed as parts of Italy's longest river and largest reservoir of freshwater have dried up due to the worst drought in the last 70 years, in Gualtieri, Italy, June 22, 2022. 

The crisis comes from three years of drought and warmer temperatures, Draghi said.

"There are two categories of causes for this water crisis: One is the rainfall deficit of the last three years. There has been a low level of rainfall, of course not just this year but also in previous years," Draghi said on Thursday. "The general rise in temperatures is also contributing; there is no doubt that climate change is having an effect."

One of the pylons of the bridge that crosses the river Po in the municipality of Boretto, in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy on June 27, 2022.
Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
One of the pylons of the bridge that crosses the river Po in the municipality of Boretto, in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy on June 27, 2022.

Also, Italy is losing water from the Po River because of what Draghi called "structural causes," meaning "poor maintenance of the basins, poor network maintenance."  

"This is why, in Italy, there is an unusually high level of leakage, of water being lost: we're talking about 30 per cent or more," Draghi said. "To give you an idea, the total in Israel is 3% and in other European countries 5-6-8%. An emergency plan is undoubtedly needed to deal with this emergency now." 

The Fountain of the Months (Fontana dei Mesi) is pictured closed to avoid wasting water, in the Valentino Park, Turin, Italy June 19, 2022. 
Massimo Pinca | Reuters
The Fountain of the Months (Fontana dei Mesi) is pictured closed to avoid wasting water, in the Valentino Park, Turin, Italy June 19, 2022. 

The Po River and surrounding drainage basins are important regions for agriculture and livestock. More than half the national stock of cattle, 3.1 million animals, and 65% of the national stock of pigs, or 6 million animals, live in the region, according to European Commission data.

The drought has devastated Italy's rice crop, wiping out 30% of the total harvest, according to a statement Sunday from Coldiretti, an agricultural organization in the European Union.

The devastation to the rice crop is coming at an especially painful time for the industry because it had already decreased its seed planting by 10,000 hectares due to a "record increase in production costs" caused by the war in Ukraine, Coldiretti said.

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