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Climate Crisis: Italy's drought emergency escalates

Half of north Italy's agricultural output at risk says farmers association; water use limited to essential purposes in scores of towns.

(ANSA) - ROME, JUN 17 - Piedmont Governor Alberto Cirio said Friday that 170 towns in his region have ordered that water only be used for essential purposes such as for drinking and food preparation as the severe drought that has gripped Italy, especially northern regions, escalated.
    He added that water supplies were being cut off completely at night in 10 towns, most of them in the province of Novara, because of the drought.
    "At the moment the situation regarding civilian use of drinking water is under control but we have a very serious state of emergency for agriculture," he said.
    "Piedmont is in a water crisis that is worse than the 2003 one and it had the second hottest May since 2009.
    "The volume of the Po is 72% lower than it should be.
    "The problem regards the source of the water because there is no snow in the mountains (to melt and feed the river).
    "We don't have the same emergency where supplies come from water tables".
    Piedmont and Lombardy have said they will ask the government to declare a state of emergency due to the drought.
    Some areas have not had any rain for over 110 days after one of the driest winters in decades, which means there is little or no snow on the nation's mountains.
    Meuccio Berselli, the secretary general of the River Po district authority, said Wednesday that the drought that is hitting Italy's longest river means that some northern towns are needing to have water supplies brought in by trucks.
    Berselli told ANSA that trucks have been taking water to dozens of towns in Piedmont and Lombardy because "the local reservoirs are fed by sources that no longer exist".
    More frequent and intense droughts are among the consequences of human-caused climate change, scientists say.
    An official report said Thursday that the drought alert has spread from the Po valley to central rivers like the Arno, the Aniene and the Tiber, which have half the water they normally do at this time of the year.
    The ANBI water resource observatory said in a report that this was "the first season in which the consequences of climate change are being seen in a massive way on the (Italian) peninsula".
    Farm association CIA said Friday that the lack of water for irrigation threatened 50% of northern Italy's agricultural production.
    Italy's fish and seafood farming sector is also in danger, due to higher water temperatures and less rain increasing salinity, the Feagripesca-Confcooperative association told ANSA.
    The mayor of Bracciano, Marco Crocicchi, the lakeside town north of Rome, said he could not rule out water rationing this summer.


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