Water, Europe’s next crisis

By | April 29, 2023

Even before summer comes, Europe running out of water.

A large reservoir that is the main source of water for millions of Catalans has been emptied. The inability to supply water to many villages has led to public confrontations and conflicts in France. In Italy, the level of the largest river has dropped to the levels of last June. More than a quarter of the Old Continent faces conditions drought already in April, and many countries are preparing for a difficult summer, similar to last year.

A recent study using satellite data confirmed that Europe has suffered a severe drought since 2018. Rising temperatures are causing a dangerous vicious cycle precariousness water.

“A few years ago I would have said that we have enough water in Europe. Now, it seems that we are facing a problem of water scarcity,” says Torster Meyer-Geer, head of the satellite data study.

Experts warn that not even a rainy spring could balance the situation. And with summer just around the corner, governments are scrambling to find a solution not only to existing difficulties, but also to future shortages.

winter drought

Last year’s drought that hit Europe’s surface and water table was of historic proportions. The expectation that winter, with its rains and snows, would somewhat mitigate the phenomenon, was bitterly denied.

Spain is experiencing an abnormal heat wave and drought in spring, especially in Catalonia in the northeast, which facing worst drought in decades.

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The church of Sant Romà de Sau in the Sau reservoir in Catalonia has been completely exposed due to the drastic drop in water level – Source: AP

The drought, pointed out last week the president of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, will be one of the central political and territorial issues of confrontation in the country in the coming years.

In the absence of rain, the water reservoirs, where rainwater is collected for use in the drier months, have been filled to only a quarter of their capacity in the region. Some farmers were forced not to cultivate, in many areas water was transported in aqueducts and, in at least one case, farmers were forced to indefinitely postpone planting.

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France experienced its driest winter in 60 years, with at least 30 consecutive 24-hour periods without a drop of rain in January and February.

In Italy, the CIMA research institute recorded a 64% reduction in snowfall in mid-April. Po waters are at the same low levels as last summer. While the water level of Lake Garda is less than half of its average level.

Winter rainfall is crucial, especially for Mediterranean countriesexplains Fred Hattermann, a hydrologist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Given the low rainfall this year and limited snow cover in the Alps, “if it doesn’t rain now, then drought is almost certain,” he warned.

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Water scarcity has caused a decline in agricultural irrigation and a host of crop and harvest problems – Source: Shutterstock

However, even if it rains from now on, the spring rains will only serve to alleviate the serious water shortage this summer.

Drought factors

Drought is a complex phenomenon with many factors, from excessive consumption to rising temperatures, which will surely intensify water scarcity in Europe.

There are three ways that global warming will intensify drought in Europe, Hatterman explains.

First, as the temperature rises, more water evaporates. “Essentially, we should have a constant increase in precipitation to compensate for the increase in evaporation,” says the German hydrologist.

Secondly, climate change is weakening the European air current, which means that atmospheric pressure can be disturbed, causing prolonged periods of heat and dryness – as happened last year – or prolonged heavy rains, as happened during the deadly floods of 2021.

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In third place, Europe’s glaciers and snow cover are shrinking rapidly due to the increase in temperature, which deprives the vital supply of water to the great rivers, such as the Rhine, the Danube, the Rhône or the Po.

This year, the water from melting ice in Europe’s reservoirs “will be much less than usual,” estimates Andrea Toretti, a researcher at the European Commission Research Center.

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In Catalonia, water reserves in reservoirs have decreased by 26% – Source: AP

According to, Spain, southern Portugal, Italy and France will prove to be particularly vulnerable.

“Poland and other regions such as Bulgaria, Romania, the hellas they are giving warning signs of drought,” he warned.

It is recalled that, according to data from the European Copernicus service, Europe, where the temperature rises twice as fast as the world averagelast year experienced the continent’s hottest summer since data collection began in 1950.

Source: Political

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