Italy’s Water Shortage Is as Real as It Gets

Anyone with a trip to Rome planned for the summer of 2017 might be in for a nasty surprise as the city is going through one of the worst droughts in recorder history. City authorities are even talking about shutting up the water supply for about 8 hours a day and turning off the city fountains. So, unless you want your pictures of Rome to look drastically different than the ones other people got and your hotel experience to be an extreme one, then you might want to reconsider your travel plans. But what brought on this situation and how and when will it be fixed?

What is happening in Rome?

Rome’s most famous fountain: Fontana di Trevi

Rome’s 3 million inhabitants are getting ready for some severe restrictions imposed by the city authorities in the context of the drought. Mayor VirginiaRaggi has already issued an order asking the citizens to limit the unnecessary water use such as using water for decorative fountains, filling swimming pools, washing cars or irrigating gardens. But these are mere luxuries Romans will have to give up on compared to the water rationing and cease of supply for up to 8 hours a day.

The pumping of water from lake Bracciano, a water source situated 19 miles from Rome and one of the city’s main water supplies, has already been stopped. If things are bad now, the authorities are doing their best to avoid an environmental disaster as the lake has fallen too much already.

In the Vatican, the fountains have already stopped working and this is for the first time ever that water will not be flowing through them. Even so, there are over 2,500 drinking and decorative fountains in Rome, only 100 of which are in Vatican. The city administration has decided to keep only 85 open for the moment in order to provide some of the population drinking water in case of need.

How Is This Situation Different from Any Other in the Past?

The Bernini Fountain
A water shortage in a big city is big news, especially since there are flocks of tourists coming on from every corner of the world. But apart from a potential discomfort felt by visitors and some of the locals, the problem is worse than you can imagine. To put things into perspective, think about the fact that the fountains in the Vatican have never been turned off. The fact that this is happening now should give you an idea of how severe this drought really is.

For starters, the drought has been a problem since the fall of 2016. Topped with the situation in the spring of 2017 when unusually high temperatures have been reported for the area. Once this unusually hot spring has passed, it was followed by a scorching summer. Experts claim that the current temperature is 2 degrees higher than the normal averages for the region.

Tourism is the least affected industry, considering the harm done in agriculture. Almost 60% of farmland is under threat and the damages suffered so far sum up to EUR 2 billion. Among the worst hit productions there are the ones of wine grapes and olives, some of the main exports of Italy. Dairy farms are just as affected as cows are stressed by the heat and have stopped giving milk.

Rome Is not the only Affected Area

Panorama of Lake Bracciano

Two-thirds of the country is affected, with the administrative representatives of several other regions such as the areas surrounding the cities of Parma and Piacenza, already having declared a state of emergency. Also, other water sources in the country have suffered just like the Bracciano river, the Po river in the Piedmont region being at only 65% of its natural capacity. The Veneto, Sardinia and Tuscany regions have also declared a state of emergency.

And if this was not enough, know that neighboring Spain and France are struggling with wildfire that have already taken the lives of several people and have caused citizens to leave their homes. And the situation in the area does not seem to improve as time passes. There is a rising concern for safety issues, an ever-deepening water crisis and lack of food security with so much many of the crops having been compromised.

This Would Be a Good Time to Acknowledge the Reality of Climate Change

Piazza Navona, Neptune’s Fountain

There have been talks about how climate change is a reality people can no longer disregard in the Italian regions. And these talks date back all the way to 2010. But it seems that it takes such a severe situation for people to actually start thinking about how bad things can get and how badly they can be affected. Regular people believe that there is nothing the authorities won’t do to protect them. But here they are, faced with an issue that has been a concern since the fall of 2016 and everybody is in the same situation of risking their drinking water and their personal hygiene.

All temperatures in Rome have been higher than their historical norms. Rainfall has been at an all-time low with 80% less compared to the previous year alone. And it is only when the unprecedented occurs that people become aware of the threats they are actually exposed to in case nothing is done about pollution and global warming.

Say that things will slowly go back to normal, the month of August passes and the fall of 2017 will not resemble the fall of 2016. Say the authorities will find a way to deal with the current situation in all of its severity. And let’s admit that they might learn from their mistakes and get ready for a second such episode. But how sure can we be of the fact that a whole new high or new low will not be registered? What if the next drought is worse and what if the summer temperatures just keep increasing with 2 degrees every year? When will be the right time to address the issue of global warming and what we are actually risking by not acting sooner?

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