Eight ways to save water during Italy’s drought

As Italy suffers its worst drought in 70 years, here are some simple ways to save water at home and help de-escalate the emergency.

Garden hose
As Italy faces one of the worst droughts in its recent history, there are a number of ways residents can help save water. Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

Italy is currently experiencing its worst drought in decades, and water use restrictions remain in place in many parts of the country until the end of summer

Five northern regions were granted a ‘state of emergency’ in July, and hundreds of municipal authorities up and down the country have autonomously imposed water-saving measures, including limits on the use of drinking water.

READ ALSO: Hosepipe bans and pools: your questions answered on Italy’s drought restrictions

Even in areas where no official restrictions are in place, Italian authorities are asking everyone to make an effort to save water this summer. Guidelines released by government agency ENEA in July include the following advice:

Equip all of your taps with an aerator

Aerators mix the water coming out of regular taps with air and reduce water pressure, thus allowing households to save between 6,000 and 8,000 litres of water per year.

They can be found in any homeware shop, generally cost between one and two euros and are extremely easy to install yourself.

Water fountain in France

There are some very simple ways to keep your water usage down. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Check you don’t have any leaks around the house

Granted, this might look like one of those ‘duh, really?’ pieces of advice. But the impact that even small leaks can have on a household’s water usage should not be underestimated. 

A minor leak might mean that you are (quite literally) flushing up to 100 additional litres of water down the drain. So, if you spot a leak, get it fixed ASAP.

Equip your toilet with a dual flush plate (or button) or a flow-regulating handle

All ‘new-generation’ toilets should have one of the above. Otherwise, replacing your old flushing system with a more efficient one can save between 10,000 and 30,000 litres of water a year.

Take a shower instead of a bath

Baths are a wonderful way to relax and let go of the stress accumulated during the day. But they also use two to three times the average amount of water consumed by having a regular shower (that is, between 40 and 60 litres). So in these times, you might want to opt for a shower instead.

Don’t keep the water running when it’s not necessary

There is, of course, no need to keep the tap on when you don’t need running water. Something to consider during a number of daily activities, including brushing your teeth and shaving.

Start your dishwasher and washing machine only when they’re fully loaded

Make sure you switch on these appliances only when they’re at full capacity. Also, avoid hand-washing: contrary to what some may think, it is in fact far more wasteful than using electronic appliances. 

For instance, washing dishes by hand will use about 60 to 70 litres of water a day, whereas a single dishwasher cycle consumes 12 to 15 litres of water on average.

READ ALSO: ‘Four to five light meals a day’: Italy’s official advice for surviving the heat

Local authorities in drought-hit areas are asking residents not to fill up pools. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Only wash your car when strictly necessary and use a bucket

Who doesn’t like a clean, shiny car? But in times of crisis, some small sacrifices are called for. So, one of the most common recommendations is to wash your vehicle only when absolutely necessary, and to do so by using a bucket rather than a hose. 

Water your plants at night

Water evaporates quickly during the peak hours of the day, whereas the evaporation rate is lower in the evening, when the temperature falls.

Watering your plants in the evening will allow them to absorb more water and, in turn, save your household (and the environment) between 5,000 to 10,000 litres of water per year.

Bonus entry: Don’t fill up inflatable pools (or any other pool)

The lure of an inflatable pool filled to the brim with cold water is no small thing, especially in areas where the sea or the fresh water of rivers and lakes are only a distant fantasy. 

However, a dip in your back garden pool is still by no means essential, and many drought-hit areas are asking residents not to fill theirs up at the moment.

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Italian climate activists throw flour over Andy Warhol car

Italian environmental group Ultima Generazione on Friday poured flour over a sports car painted by Andy Warhol on display in Milan, in the latest of a wave of protests demanding action on climate change.

Italian climate activists throw flour over Andy Warhol car

Protesters entered the Fabbrica del Vapore exhibition space in Milan at around 11am on Friday morning and threw eight kilos of flour over a BMW sports car painted by the late Andy Warhol back in 1979. 

Two members of the environmental group Ultima Generazione (‘Last Generation’) then proceeded to glue their hands to the car’s windows. 

At the time of writing it wasn’t clear whether the artwork, valued at 10 million euros, had suffered any significant damage.

“They told us beauty will save the world, but that’s bullshit,” Ultima Generazione sad in a statement released immediately afterwards.

“Only immediate and radical actions to tackle the effects of the current climate crisis will change the world as we know it.”

Activists from Italy’s Ultima Generazione after their latest protest in Milan on Friday, November 18th. Photo: Ultima Generazione.

In the same statement, the group referred to the Italian government’s handling of the environmental crisis as “criminal”, accusing people in power of “endangering people’s lives”.

Friday’s episode was only the latest in a series of demonstrations seeking to jolt public opinion over the consequences of climate change and the need to make the switch to renewable energy sources.

READ ALSO: Climate activists hurl pea soup at Van Gogh painting in Rome

Only two weeks ago, on November 4th, protesters from the same group hurled pea soup at a Van Gogh painting in Rome – an action which Italy’s new culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, later condemned as “ignoble”. 

Ultima Generazione began in 2021 as a “campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience” aimed at uniting Italian activists concerned about climate change and the future of the planet.

The group has two main demands. Firstly, they ask that the reopening of old coal power plants be paused immediately and that all scheduled fracking operations be cancelled. 

Secondly, they want an increase in the use of solar energy and wind power equivalent to at least 20 gigawatts. 

Ultima Generazione is part of a EU-wide network of climate activists who have been recently targeting world-famous artworks, including Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” in The Hague, Netherlands and Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” in Vienna.