Eight ways to save water during Italy’s drought

As one of the worst droughts in Italian history grips the country, 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 remains under the jackboot of one of the worst droughts in its recent history. As rain isn’t on the cards for at least another week, the country’s water crisis keeps escalating.

Several regions have asked to be granted a ‘state of emergency’ and municipalities up and down the country have already autonomously imposed water-saving measures, including water rationing.

READ ALSO: Drought in Italy: What water use restrictions are in place and where?

While the government’s much-awaited decreto siccità (drought bill), which is expected by the end of this week, will likely clarify what exactly will be asked of those living in the most vulnerable Italian regions, there are a number of simple steps we can all take now to help.

After scouring Italian media reports on the crisis, we’ve compiled eight of the best – and easiest – water-saving tips below.

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. However, should that not be the case, you can replace your old flushing system with a more efficient one and 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 require 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 the latter.

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

This is one of the classics. 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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Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

As the country prepares for yet another heatwave, we look into whether summer 2022 might go down as the hottest summer in Italian history.

Will summer 2022 be Italy's hottest ever?

August is here and, alas, the heat is back on. 

After enduring months of exceptionally hot weather, Italy’s residents are bracing for yet another heatwave as meteorologists say temperatures this month might be 10 degrees higher than seasonal averages.

At this point many might be wondering whether the summer we’re living through (or surviving, you decide) might be one of, if not the hottest in Italian history. 

The short answer is: it might be but it’s far too soon to tell since, from a meteorological standpoint, summers consist of June, July and August and the latter month has only just started. 

But we can already start drawing a comparison between the current summer and the hottest summer in Italian history, the sweltering estate 2003.

For those who might not have been around then, summer 2003 brought four months of far-above-average temperatures without so much as a let-up to ‘break’ the heat. As a result, summer 2003 literally smashed each and every one of the previous records and earned the title of hottest Italian summer ever.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in Italy in August?

Tourists cooling off in Rome, Italy

Italy’s mean temperature in August is expected to sway between 2 and 3°C above season average. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

So far summer 2022 appears on track to give its infamous 2003 counterpart a run for its money.

Granted, in June 2022, the national mean temperature was 2.88​​°C above average, whereas the same value was 3.44°C above average in June 2003. 

But, while the country’s mean temperature was 1.59°C above average in July 2003, July 2022 registered an impressive +2.26°C in the same category.

So, all in all, it seems like the contest is bound to go right down to the wire, with temperatures in August set to determine whether summer 2022 will eventually be crowned as the hottest summer ever. 

Michele Brunetti, Chief Researcher at the Italian Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), tells The Local: “August 2003 registered a significant anomaly – the national mean temperature was 2.71°C above average. We’ll have to wait and see whether this month’s temperatures will exceed those recorded in August.

“It would surely be quite extraordinary [if they did].”

Difficult as it may be, forecasts project that the country’s mean temperature will sway between 2 and 3°C above average in the coming weeks, so there might be just enough margin for summer 2022 to become the hottest ever (not that we hope it does, obviously).

The dried-up banks of the Po river in Italy

Thus far, 2022 has been the driest year in Italian history. Above are the dried-up banks of Italy’s longest river, the Po. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Meanwhile, 2022 may also be able to break another undesirable record and go down in history as the driest year ever – or, at least, since 1800, when records started.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Po Valley rations water amid worst drought in 70 years

So far this year, up until the end of July, rainfall across the country has been below average by as much as 46 percent (-52 percent in the north and -42 percent in the centre and south), making the first seven months of 2022 the driest in Italian history.

The amount of rainfall in the coming months will determine whether 2022 as a whole will beat out the current record holder, 2017 – something Brunetti says is likely to happen.

It would be no surprise given that the country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.