Water levels on Italy’s Lake Garda drop to 15-year low as drought continues

Local tourism promoters insisted on Tuesday that summer activities can still go ahead on Italy's northern lakes, despite receding waters.

Water levels on Italy's Lake Garda drop to 15-year low as drought continues
The peninsula of Sirmione on Lake Garda as the waters recede due to severe drought on August 16th, 2022 . Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

The pedalos lie far from the water’s edge and the flat stone slabs around the Sirmione peninsula are exposed on Garda, Italy’s largest lake, which is is suffering like many others from months without rain.

The low water level was causing concern among visitors this week at Garda, a major tourist destination nestled among mountains in the north of the country, but local authorities stressed that tourist activities were not affected.

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

“We are currently at 30 centimetres (12 inches) above the (benchmark) hydrographic level,” compared to an average for this time of year of between 80 and 100, said Gianluca Ginepro, head of Garda Unico, which promotes the lake.

It is the lowest since 2007, when levels dropped to 9.9 cm, according to official data.

“It’s a situation to keep an eye on, even if from the point of view of using the lake – like wind surfing, sailing – there is no problem,” Ginepro told AFP.

People walk on the rocks of the peninsula of Sirmione on Lake Garda, as waters recede due to severe drought. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Tourism was holding up well, he said, although operators of trips across the lake had switched from hydrofoils to catamarans.

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

He said however that “the possibility of providing water for agriculture has dropped”.

Farmers have been hit hard by a lack of water, particularly in the River Po, which stretches across northern Italy and is suffering its worst drought for 70 years.

The issue goes beyond Italy, with land across Europe parched by a lack of rainfall and sweltering temperatures, driven by climate change.

Several other European countries, as well as reporting record temperatures during recent heatwaves, have also reported low levels of water in rivers amid drought.

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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.