Water, the new crisis in Europe – It is still spring and the reserves are running out

By | April 29, 2023

It’s still spring and Europe dries on Catalonia one of the most basic sources of “empty” water supply. In many of their towns from France the inability to provide residents with drinking water has caused controversy and its largest river Italy it is already at the low levels of last June.

As Politico writes, more than a quarter of the continent has suffered from drought since April and many countries are preparing for a repeat of last summer, if not worse.

A study using satellite data showed how Europe suffers its worst drought since 2018. Rising temperatures are compounding the problem, and the old continent seems to be locked in one dangerous spiralwhere water is increasingly precarious:

As temperatures rise, more water evaporates and reserves decrease. Also, the climate change weakens European air currents, so air pressure systems get “stuck” and create prolonged periods of heat and dryness or extreme rainfall, as happened in the deadly floods of 2021. Finally, glaciers and snow cover of Europe are shrinking rapidly thanks to rising temperatures, which are drying up important, vitally important rivers such as the Rhine, the Danube, the Rhône or the Po.

“A few years ago I would have said that we have enough water in Europe. Now it seems that we are in trouble,” said Torsten Meyer Gehr, lead author of the study.

And the evidence for the future is ominous. According to research, due to climate change, Extreme heat waves, with record temperatures and droughts, are expected to increase in the coming period. The effects will be especially devastating for the least prepared countries, but “nobody and nowhere”, as the scientists emphasize, should feel safe from the effects of the climate crisis.

As Politico reports on current conditions, even if there are rains in the coming weeks, they could not make up for the large losses in groundwater and surface water supplies. Last winter was quite dry and did not provide much needed relief, especially in the hardest hit areas.

France, for example, had no rain for 30 consecutive days in January and February, and data shows it had its driest winter in 60 years. Italy’s CIMA research institute recorded a 64% reduction in snowfall in mid-April. The Po River has already reached the levels of last June and summer is still two months away. The level of Lake Garda is already below half.

Winter rainfall is of vital importance, especially for Mediterranean countries, one of the most sensitive regions to the effects of the climate crisis. Any spring rain is not going to reverse this year’s negative data.

According to experts, to reverse the destructive spiral we would need at least a decade of heavy rains. However, such a development, based on the conditions created by climate change, is not foreseen. Even for Germany, the forecast from the national weather service is that precipitation will decrease rather than increase over the next decade.

Governments are trying to solve the problems, but it is a complex and multifactorial phenomenonor, since mismanagement and excessive consumption also play a crucial role. Italy, Spain, France, Germany and other European countries have already drawn up a series of plans for water management. However, critics characterize them as “too few” and the prioritization of water supply by sector (agriculture, industry, tourism) looms as a major political issue.

The drought “will be one of the central political and territorial debates in our country in the coming years,” said the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, last week. The Spanish farmers’ union launched a message: For this year, in four entire regions, we will have to forget about certain cereals. An expert also predicted to El País that for this year we should not have almost the entire olive harvest.

In the north of Barcelona, ​​the stocks in the artificial lake of Sau have fallen to such low levels that the authorities have decided to remove as many fish as possible to avoid contaminating the water by possible suffocation. Across Catalonia, reservoirs are at just 27% in April, while forecasts say Spain will face an early heatwave next week. According to officials’ estimates, water reserves in Spain, but also in France, could be reduced by up to 40% by 2050.

This summer is expected to be particularly difficult for Spain, southern Portugal, Italy and France. As There are also drought warnings for Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and even Poland. Germany and the Scandinavian countries are also on the table. Sectors that have been particularly affected by the devastating effects of the climate crisis are looking for answers to current and also imminent shortages.

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