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WEATHER

EXPLAINED: How could Italy’s drought state of emergency affect you?

Italy's government has declared a state of emergency in five northern regions. Here is what this means for people who live, work, or visit those areas.

EXPLAINED: How could Italy's drought state of emergency affect you?
This picture taken on July 2, 2022 in Rome shows the low water level of the river Tiber near the Vittorio Emanuele II bridge, revealing an ancient bridge built under Roman Emperor Nero (Bottom). (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

The Italian government approved a state of emergency in five regions, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto, that will be in place until December 31st, according to a government press release.

The authorities say the decision was taken due to the current water deficit situation in the territories of regions within the basins of the Po and Eastern Alps and other drought conditions detected in other areas.

READ ALSO: Italy has declared a drought emergency in five northern regions

According to the government, “the state of emergency is aimed at addressing the current situation with extraordinary means and powers, with rescue and assistance interventions to the population concerned, and at restoring the functionality of public services and strategic network infrastructure.”

The first step is allocating money to the National Emergency Fund.

How much money will the government spend?

Italy’s government has set aside € 36.5 million for its National Emergency Fund.

Most of it, €10.9 million, will be sent to the Emilia Romagna region. The Lombardy region should receive €9 million, while the Piedmont region is set to receive €7.6 million. The Veneto and Friuli Venezia regions will each receive €4.8 million and €4.2 million, respectively.

What is a state of emergency?

A state of emergency is a provision by law that entitles the government to put through policies through direct ordinances, without the need for parliamentary approval, for the safety and protection of its citizens, according to Italian law.

It’s what has allowed the Italian government to set the budget for its National Emergency Fund regarding the drought.

Through a state of emergency, many Covid-19 regulations were first implemented, and help to receive Ukrainian refugees was quickly offered.

What will change with the state of emergency?

It’s hard to tell. For now, the financial aspect, with the € 36.5 million set aside to combat the drought effects, is confirmed, but the federal government haven’t given much more information on what the money will be spent on.

READ ALSO: Eight ways to save water during Italy’s drought

The state of emergency provides “extraordinary means and powers” to help guarantee public safety and compensation for losses while seeking to ensure normal living conditions for those in the area.

There is also an expectation for a task force creation which will decide on further measures.

Veneto’s governor Luca Zaia told ANSA that the state of emergency was a “welcome” decision. However, they are now “waiting to understand the details and the appointment of the Commissioner and any subcommissioners so that we can be operational with quick interventions”.

What can we expect in the future?

Zaia mentioned several steps that could be taken using the National Emergency Fund cash. Among them, he suggested investments to clean mountain reservoirs and create new reservoirs.

There is also a need to invest and assist agriculture and start moving production in Italy to a more “arid culture” modality, the Veneto governor said, citing the Israeli experience with crops in extreme weather.

Local authorities including in Baveno, northwest of Milan, have cut the water supply to fountains. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

It is also possible that the state of emergency will be used to impose sanctions on those who waste water and risk fires, for example. It also gives the government the green light to impose water usage restrictions.

What restrictions already exist?

Local authorities have already imposed several restrictions in the affected states.

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 struck by water shortages.

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

Measures are stringent in Villorba, near Treviso, where until September 30th, residents will not be allowed to use potable water to water gardens, wash vehicles or fill up private pools between 6 am and 11 pm.

Fines for breaking these rules reportedly range from €25 to €500.

Similar water restriction rules are in place in almost all the affected regions, while others monitor the situation closely and are expected to start taking measures soon.

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HEATWAVE

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.

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