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CLIMATE CRISIS

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

Italy is suffering the worst drought in decades, and water restrictions remain in place in many areas until the end of summer. We answer your questions about what this means for everyday life in Italy.

Hosepipe bans and pools: your questions answered on Italy’s drought restrictions
People read a local newspaper headline about the water crisis in Baveno, northwest of Milan. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Since the middle of June this year, many parts of Italy have been on drought alert, and a ‘state of emergency’ was declared in July in five northern regions: Friuli-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto.

But what this means for people living in or visiting Italy depends on the rules set in each region and municipality, and these vary significantly from place to place.

READ ALSO: Italy’s risotto rice fields decimated by worst drought in decades

While some areas have restricted the use of drinking water, others have switched off city fountains or asked people not to fill up their swimming pools this summer.

If your local comune (town hall) has imposed water use restrictions, notices are usually sent out to residents and you should also be able to see the rules on your local comune’s website.

Here we answer some of the most commonly-asked questions about the water use restrictions in place:

Is there a hosepipe ban?

Hosepipe bans are common in the UK during drought periods, but Italian water restrictions work differently. There is no ban on using hosepipes in particular, but many areas have limited activities such as washing cars or watering the garden that you might normally use a hosepipe for.

For example, in the Veneto region, dozens of towns and comuni including Verona, Villorba and Montebelluna have imposed restrictions on the use of potable water for anything other than domestic and hygienic purposes.

READ ALSO: Historic drought resurfaces World War II bomb in Italy’s River Po

Check local restrictions in your area, but some authorities have specifically forbidden the use of water for watering plants, or only allow them to be watered in the evening.

These rules apply whether you are using a hosepipe, watering can or any other implement.

Man waters plant

Many towns and villages across the country have now banned residents from using water for non-domestic purposes, including watering plants and gardens. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Is Italy rationing tap water?

Not everywhere in the country. But in some areas, municipal authorities have placed restrictions on the supply of tap water as local supplies threaten to run dry.

This includes hundreds of towns and villages in Piedmont and Lombardy, as well as several comuni in Lunigiana, northern Tuscany.

Such a rule usually means supplies are restricted during the night only, typically between 10pm-7am, but if you have water use restrictions in place in your area check your comune‘s website for full details of what you’re allowed to do and when.

I have a well on my property, can I use water from the well to water the garden?

It’s not uncommon in rural areas for properties to have a well or similar that provides fresh but untreated water. Obviously you shouldn’t drink this as it may not be safe, but many people use it to water gardens.

Unless otherwise stated, water restrictions announced by local authorities for residents usually concern only acqua potabile (drinking water, or tap water) so you can continue to use water from the well.

Watch out for a mention of acqua di pozzo (well water). If your local restrictions mention acqua non trattata (untreated water) that includes all types of water, including water from your well.

Shut public fountain in Baveno, Milan

Many towns and cities in northern Italy, including Milan, have switched off their public fountains amid water shortages this summer. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Can I fill my swimming pool?

This depends on the level of drought restriction in place in your area, but most parts of Italy now have some restrictions on private swimming pools.

For example, in some parts of Varese you may need to get permission from the water company before filling your pool, while the comune of Florence has a complete ban in place.

And it may also depend on whether you use tap water or water from your own private well.

Tap water use restrictions only apply during the day in some cases: residents of Villorba, near Treviso, are not allowed to use potable water to water gardens, wash vehicles or fill up pools between 6am and 11pm.

In some areas, local municipal swimming pools may be closed.

The bans on filling pools do not appear to apply to businesses, including hotels and resorts, but it’s always best to check the rules with your local town hall.

Marina Piceno, 64, relaxes in a hot tub in her garden that uses water from her private well. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Can you really be fined for breaking the rules?

Yes. Fines again vary by local authority, but in parts of Veneto and Piedmont, for example, penalties for breaking the rules reportedly range from 25 to 500 euros.

How strictly the rules are enforced is hard to say. But if your area has water restrictions in place, it’s likely that filling the swimming pool, washing the car and watering your lawn will make you unpopular with neighbours who are following the rules – and this could be even more unpleasant than a fine.

What’s the official advice on saving water?

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:

  • Turn off taps, and don’t let them drip;
  • Limit the amount of tap water used on gardens – install containers to collect and store rainwater to use instead (some areas have more stringent measures in place on gardens)
  • Install water-saving equipment;
  • Take a shower instead of a bath;
  • Repair water leaks;
  • Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher half empty.

We’re happy to answer questions from our members on any aspect of life in Italy. Get in touch at [email protected]

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN ITALY

What changes about life in Italy in October 2022

From energy bill changes to the start of ski season and a (possible) new government, here's what changes in Italy in October.

What changes about life in Italy in October 2022

End of face mask rules – As of Friday, September 30th, face masks will no longer be required on Italian public transport (buses, trains, trams, ferries, etc.). 

The mask mandate was originally meant to lapse on June 15th but it had been extended by outgoing health minister Roberto Speranza after an uptick in infections at the beginning of the summer.

Friday will also mark the end of mask-wearing requirements for those accessing healthcare facilities or care homes, whether they be visitors, patients or staff. 

Although mask requirements have been lifted, staff and visitors will still have to produce a valid ‘super green pass’ – i.e. a health pass certifying that the holder has been fully vaccinated against or has recovered from Covid-19 – to access the above-mentioned facilities.

Barring any extension, the ‘green pass’ mandate will expire on December 31st. 

National airline staff strike – Pilots and cabin crew from Ryanair and Vueling will take part in a national strike action on Saturday, October 1st.

In particular, Ryanair staff will hold a 24-hour walkout, whereas Vueling staff will strike for a total of four hours, from 1pm to 5pm.

READ ALSO: Italian low-cost airline staff to strike on October 1st

It’s still unclear the extent to which the strike will affect passengers, though significant delays or cancellations can not be ruled out. 

Energy bill changes – for some

Those on old Maggior Tutela ‘protected’ contracts governed by Italy’s energy regulator Arera – that’s around one third of Italian households – could find their energy bills spiking from October 1st.

Arera sets electricity and gas tariffs based on market rates, and usually updates them quarterly. From October, however, prices will be updated monthly, and instead of being indexed to the Amsterdam energy exchange, rates will be tied to the Italian virtual exchange point (PSV).

It’s unclear at this stage exactly what effect this will have, but the research institute IRCAF has warned that it could result in bills doubling. For its part, Arera has said the move will protect consumers and guarantee the continuity of supplies.

The majority of Italian households have transitioned away from the Maggior Tutela system – which is due to come to an end completely from January 2023 – and on to free market contracts with private companies since Italy’s energy market opened up to competition.

Those on fixed rate contracts with private companies should be protected from further price hikes until May 2023, under the terms of the decreto bis aid decree.

Start of ski season – Aosta Valley’s ski season will officially start on Saturday, October 1st, when the popular Cervinia ski resort will open its doors to winter sports enthusiasts. 

This year, a daily ski pass in Cervinia will cost between €51 and €57 – it was between €47 and €53 last year. 

Aside from Cervinia’s early start, all the other ski resorts in the Aosta Valley region will open their doors to the public on November 26th provided that there is enough snow on their slopes.

(Some) households allowed to switch on heating

Italy has restrictions on when (and how much) you’re allowed to heat your home, and the first places to be allowed to crank up the thermostat are northern and mountainous parts of the country, usually starting from-mid-October.

Italy is divided into several categories depending on when authorities think it’s appropriate to turn the heating on in each area.

Those in the warmer coastal areas in places like Sicily and Calabria are last to be permitted to flick the switch on at the start of December. Here’s when you can turn your heating on in a typical year in Italy.

This year, because of the ongoing energy crisis caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the date on which the first households can turn on their heating has been pushed back one week to October 22nd (with concessions for areas where particularly bad weather is forecast).

The maximum number of hours the heating can be switched on over the course of the day has been reduced from 14 to 13 hours.

Pensions increase

Pensions under a certain threshold are set to rise by two percent from October 1st thanks to measures contained in the aiuto bis aid decree.

A reevaluation of pensions usually takes place in Italy at the start of each calendar year, but the process has been brought forward by three months to combat the cost of living crisis.

The increase affects those on pensions of up to €35,000 per year; pensioners on higher incomes will receive a 0.2 percent rise from November.

New government (?)

After the hard-right centrodestra coalition emerged as the victors in Italy’s September general elections, negotiations are now underway to form a new government.

The process has in the past taken anywhere from four to twelve weeks, which means the country could see a new government sworn in by the end of the month – but it’s not a given.

Clocks go back

At 3am on Sunday, October 30th, the clocks will go back by one hour, marking the end of summer time.

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