More than 60% of the territory of the European Union and the United Kingdom are being affected by extreme drought, exacerbated by the record heat wave that has hit Europe this summer, according to new research from the European Drought Observatory.
“The severe drought that has affected various regions of Europe since the beginning of the year continues to expand and worsen. The dry conditions are related to a prolonged and persistent lack of precipitation combined with early heat waves in May and June,” the report indicates.
Spring heat waves have meant that the competition for water will start earlier than usual this year, according to the agency, which may compromise the water supply in the coming months.
Drier-than-normal conditions are forecast for the next three months across large areas of Europe.
The most affected countries
In southern Europe, after three heat waves since the beginning of the summer, Spain has already seen the volume of water in its reservoirs reduced to around 40% of its total capacity and there are several autonomous communities with restrictions on water consumption, not alone in torrid Andalusia.
Also in Portugal , almost half of the territory suffers from extreme drought, and the current hydrological year is, to date, the second driest since 1931.
In Italy, the banks of the Po are suffering the worst drought in the last seventy years and a state of emergency has just been approved in five regions, with 36 million euros allocated mainly to farmers.
In France , the metropolitan territory is officially in a state of drought, with 57 of its 96 departments on red alert and 32 on orange.
Further north, in Germany , the drought complicates navigation on the Rhine, whose flow is lower than usual although without reaching the historical minimum of 2018, so the ships are now shallower and the load has been reduced to 50% or 30% of the normal volume for transporting raw materials such as coal and fuel.
The United Kingdom is not exempt from this situation either. According to the Met Office weather agency, last month was the driest July in England since 1935. In fact, every month this year except February has seen less than average rainfall.
Industries hit by the water crisis
Agriculture is one of the activities most affected by the drought, which puts this sector of the European economy in a worrying scenario. Irrigated agriculture is spreading to countries where climate conditions made it unnecessary or circumstantial.
The European Union recognizes that “although irrigation needs are greater in the Mediterranean region, the countries of northern and eastern Europe have had to take emergency measures due to long periods of drought in recent years, and agricultural funds have provided a safety net in several EU Member States during recent droughts. Even in regions with a humid climate, supplemental irrigation serves as a tool to address risks and limitations in the availability of water resources.”
The eventuality of irrigating more or irrigating where it was not irrigated before supposes the need to withdraw additional water resources from the natural environment, whether surface or underground.
Restrictions and measures against drought
The closure of showers on beaches, night water supply cuts or the prohibition of irrigation of gardens and orchards and car washing are some of the measures adopted in Spain.
Portugal has taken measures to address this situation, including a request to the tourism sector in the Algarve to ration the use of water, especially on golf courses and green spaces.
In northern Italy, measures have been implemented such as water rationing to irrigate fields, a ban on filling swimming pools and watering private gardens, and night supply cuts.
In large areas of France there are restrictions on the use of water for irrigation or car washing and in departments such as the Alpine Haute-Savoie, on high alert, tanker trucks are used to provide drinking water.
In Poland, hundreds of municipalities have restrictions on certain uses of water and its longest river, the Vistula, is approaching historical minimum flow levels, for which passenger “ferries” have been suspended in the capital.
With information from EFE