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Po River at record-low levels, densely populated large fertile region of Italy suffering worst drought in 70 years, Italy

po river drought italy june 2022

Unusually low levels of River Po – Italy’s largest river – are transforming the country’s large fertile region, affecting crop production and threatening the densely populated region with a serious drinking water shortage.

  • While Northern Italy hasn’t seen normal rainfall for more than 110 days, the problems start in the mountains where the seasonal snowfall has been at its lowest for 20 years – 50% less than the seasonal average.

Rivers and streams in the Po district are at critical levels due to scarce winter precipitation, both snow and rain, causing severe to extremely severe drought conditions not seen in the region in 70 years, according to the Po River Basin Authority.1

All measuring stations at the Po River, with the exception of Piacenza, are in severe drought conditions, with flow rates well below the averages for the period. 

The precipitation that fell in May was mainly due to localized thunderstorms, even violent, but not sufficient to fill the deficit since the beginning of the year.

Temperatures in the month of May were above average for the period, with maximum values close to or locally above historical records for the month, with significant thermal anomalies beyond the first appearance of the first heat waves, which generated a sharp increase in the phenomenon of evapotranspiration. 

At a monitoring station in Boretto, Alessio Picarelli, head of the Interregional Body of the Po River (AIPO), received results that the Po was measuring 2.9 m (9.5 feet) below the zero gauge height, which is drastically below the seasonal average. This is causing the seawater to be sucked back upstream, bringing saltwater into the earth and poisoning crops.2

According to the farmers’ association Coldiretti, the drought in the Po River Valley threatens more than 30% of national agricultural production, including tomato sauce, fruit, vegetables, and wheat, and half of the livestock of the country.

“In the face of a water crisis, the severity of which is about to surpass what has ever been recorded since the beginning of the last century, we ask that a state of emergency be declared as soon as possible in the territories concerned, taking into account the serious prejudice of national interests,” the president of Coldiretti, Ettore Prandini, said in the letter sent to Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

References:

1 Bacino Padano: alto il fabbisogno di acqua, ma in esaurimento tutte le disponibilità. Una crisi con valori mai visti da 70 anni – ADBPO – June 13, 2022

2 The longest river in Italy is drying up. What does this mean for those who rely on it for food? – Euronews – June 20, 2022

Featured image credit: RT (stillshot)

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