With drought hitting agriculture and prompting local councils to restrict water use, the Italian government last week declared a state of emergency in five northern regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto.
The state of emergency, which will remain in place at least until December 31st, will allow local authorities to address this year’s record drought through “rescue and assistance measures for the affected population” and by restoring “strategic network infrastructure”, the government said in a statement.
A €36.5-million National Emergency Fund has already been set aside for the aforementioned regions, though little detail was immediately given as to specific action the national government will take.
While the national government plans the next steps, local authorities in many towns and villages across the country have already taken matters into their own hands, independently imposing water restrictions.
Such localised rules are for the most part concentrated in the regions that have recently been granted a state of emergency (i.e. Emilia-Romagna, Friuli, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto).
But water-saving measures have also been introduced in regions such as Lazio, Tuscany and Trentino-Alto Adige, all of which have also experienced significant water shortages, albeit to a lesser extent.
Veneto has so far been one of the hardest-hit regions as most of its corn and wheat crops are dangerously near a point of no return and several areas continue to be hit hard by water shortages.
Earlier this month, Verona’s newly elected mayor banned residents from using potable water to water gardens, wash cars or fill up swimming pools. The ban is expected to remain in place until the end of August, with those flouting the rule liable to incur fines of up to 500 euros.
Besides Verona, dozens of other comuni across the region – some as populated as Villorba (near Treviso) and Montebelluna – have now imposed restrictions prohibiting the use of water for purposes other than domestic and hygienic ones.
Fines for breaking the rules reportedly range from 25 to 500 euros.
The situation is critical in Piedmont, where some areas haven’t seen a single drop of rain for nearly four months.
At the present time, over 170 municipalities have already implemented or are about to implement water-saving restrictions. Over 80 of them are located in the Turin province, where water supplies are alarmingly low.
The rules for the local population are pretty much the same as in Veneto: no water allowed for non-domestic use and fines up to 500 euros.
Lombardy’s regional president, Attilio Fontana, has so far ruled out the possibilty of rationing water, saying that, at least for the time being, the local government’s efforts should focus on the agriculture sector.
However, some towns have autonomously decided to restrict the use of water to domestic purposes only.
For instance, in Tradate (near Varese), residents face fines up to 500 euros if caught using potable water for non-essential purposes between 6am and midnight. Other comuni in Val Brembana have instead issued official guidance on how to save water.
As for the region’s capital, Milan, water rationing isn’t presently regarded as a viable option but most of the city’s decorative fountains remain closed, albeit with some exceptions in the city centre.
At the time of writing, no restrictions on water use have been announced in the region. However, local authorities say that they are closely monitoring the situation.
Emilia-Romagna’s president, Stefano Bonaccini, previously assured residents that he will not introduce region-wide emergency measures for the time being, though he admitted that the situation is “very complex”.
The drought is hitting areas around Ravenna and Ferrara particularly hard, with the latter city expected to see limits on water supplies from its local aqueduct.
Water shortages have also been reported in the provinces of Parma and Piacenza.
The government of Lazio, the region around Italy’s capital, Rome, independently declared a ‘state of calamity’ due to water shortages at the end of June.
This present situation is particularly serious around Lake Bracciano, where water rationing has already begun in several comuni (municipalities), including Bracciano, Anguillara and Trevignano.
Rome’s residents should not be affected by major changes to their water supply, though the city’s authorities have begun to lower pipe pressure in order to save water. The mayor is also considering closing the city’s public fountains.
Local authorities in the provinces of Viterbo and Latina have also brought in localised restrictions meaning residents are banned from using water for non-domestic or non-hygienic purposes.
Though not experiencing as big a water crisis as the above-mentioned regions, Tuscany is also feeling the effects of the drought as its four major rivers (Magra, Arno, Ombrone and Serchio) all have a flow rate lower than 3.4 cubic metres per second.
Last week, the region’s president, Eugenio Giani, independently declared a region-wide state of emergency. This, he said, was to ensure the “promptness of the [local government’s] interventions in the hardest-hit areas”, which include the Orbetello Lagoon and the Maremma region, bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea.
At the end of June, Giani had already approved the construction of several new reservoirs for the collection of water, saying that said water supplies would be destined for both the local population and farms across the region.
In Livorno, mayor Luca Salvetti has banned the use of potable water for non-domestic purposes. Here, the minimum fine for breaking the rule is 100 euros.
The considerations made for Tuscany largely apply to the north-eastern region of Trentino-Alto Adige as well. Here, the water shortage is not as alarming as in other regions but some local mayors have imposed drought prevention measures.
Notably, the mayor of Ronzo Chienis (about 20 kilometres south of Trento) has suspended the water supply to residents between 11pm and 6am. This is the strictest measure adopted in the country thus far.
For information on water restrictions in your area, check the official website of your town or municipality (comune).