Authorities Fear Europe’s Drought Will Stretch Through Winter

The president of an Italian irrigation association criticized the “silence” of the European Commisison on the matter and called for a continental plan.

Molveno, Italy
Nov. 9, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Molveno, Italy

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Drought has crip­pled agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties across Spain and Italy, tra­di­tion­ally the world’s two largest olive oil pro­duc­ers.

After a dry win­ter and an even drier spring and sum­mer, the lack of sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall has con­tin­ued into the autumn.

The rain recently reported in a few regions did not ame­lio­rate both coun­tries’ severe water scarcity. The ongo­ing drought has dried up the soils and severely affected var­i­ous cul­ti­va­tions.

See Also:How Intensive Agriculture and Olive Cultivation Impact Soil Health

For exam­ple, rice pro­duc­tion, a heav­ily water-depen­dent crop, is expected to decline between 70 and 80 per­cent in both coun­tries.

Farmers in Italy and Spain usu­ally count on rain in the autumn and win­ter fall to replen­ish aquifers, rivers and reser­voirs after tra­di­tion­ally dry sum­mers.

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However, this did not hap­pen last year, and offi­cials are wor­ried that it may not hap­pen again. Rivers, reser­voirs and lakes – all of which are cru­cial for irri­ga­tion – remain at very low lev­els.

According to the National Meteorologic Agency (Aemet), Spain has expe­ri­enced a 63 per­cent drop in rain­fall com­pared to the his­tor­i­cal aver­age.

Between October 1st and 11th, 9 mil­lime­ters of rain fell com­pared to the 24-mil­lime­ter aver­age. The coun­try is expe­ri­enc­ing its third dri­est year since 1961.

Aemet sci­en­tists believe there is a 70 per­cent chance that there will be a lack of sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall in the cur­rent crop year, espe­cially in the cen­ter and west of the coun­try, which are the areas most affected by the drought.

Italy is not far­ing any bet­ter. In its lat­est update, the National Research Council’s drought obser­va­tory warned that 30 per­cent of the coun­try, mostly in the north, is expe­ri­enc­ing a severe to extreme” drought.

The obser­va­tory noted how sparse September rain­fall did not reach the dri­est Italian regions.

As it was easy to pre­dict, while not being a solu­tion to the harsh water deficit, such rain­fall events have been in some cases very intense and dam­ag­ing due to dry and com­pact soil and to more energy accu­mu­lated by the cli­mate sys­tem in these hot months,” the report said.

See Also:Italy Announces €3.9B Investment in Water Infrastructure

Other rel­e­vant European olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries, such as Portugal, have seen some improve­ment from the sever­ity of the long drought.

According to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere, only 0.2 per­cent of the coun­try was expe­ri­enc­ing extreme drought” at the end of September. However, more than 32 per­cent of the coun­try is still affected by severe drought.”

The European Drought Observatory’s lat­est data show that 27 per­cent of con­ti­nen­tal Europe is now con­sid­ered an alert zone,” mean­ing there is a pre­cip­i­ta­tion deficit, increased soil mois­ture anom­alies and veg­e­ta­tion growth anom­alies.

The Italian con­sor­tia for water recla­ma­tion and irri­ga­tion (Anbi) warned that the continent’s drought now stretches from the Iberian penin­sula to Moldova and from north­west­ern Italy to south­ern England.

Anbi crit­i­cized the silence” of the European Commission regard­ing the ongo­ing drought.

It is obvi­ous that the cli­mate cri­sis is fully involv­ing Europe and that the prob­lem must be addressed within a E.U- frame­work, for which we have been work­ing for some time through [the asso­ci­a­tion] Irrigants d’Europe,” said Francesco Vincenzi, the Anbi pres­i­dent.

It is clear, how­ever, Brussels’ resound­ing delay on these issues, which affects not only the envi­ron­ment and qual­ity of life but also the shared goal of food self-suf­fi­ciency,” he con­cluded.



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