Endless drought: there is a third of the snow in the mountains
It's almost spring and the snow should begin to melt, relieving the drought that is gripping the peninsula's rivers and lakes again this year. But what snow? According to a study by the Cima Foundation - International Environmental Monitoring Center, there is just a third of snow in the Italian mountains compared to the averages of the last 12 years, despite the recent snowfalls. Consequently, we are heading towards a nightmare summer, worse than last year's, which also caused 6 billion damages to Italian agriculture and a sharp increase in prices at origin.
«At the beginning of March the maximum accumulation is reached and in the Italian mountains 10-13 billion cubic meters of water are usually stored in the form of snow, but this year we are less than 4 billion. 63% are missing compared to the seasonal averages, a worse situation than last year, when at the same time we had 6 billion - explains Luca Ferraris, president of the Foundation -. In practice, our main reservoirs are almost empty, just on the eve of the season when water is needed the most. I wonder why the risk of running out of gas caused so much alarm in the autumn, while the risk of running out of water, which is now a certainty, gives rise to so little concern».
The water emergency is even more worrying considering the fact that it gets worse every year. «We are in a perfect storm: we have less and less water in the face of ever higher temperatures that will require even more. It is clear that the crisis is destined to worsen in the Mediterranean countries, defined as a hot spot of the climate emergency in the studies of the IPCC", specifies Ferraris, who calls for an awareness and the setting up of a climate adaptation strategy which changes rapidly.
“A hot, dry year like 2022, for example, saw 50% less snow, but nearly 50% more water needs for irrigation,” he adds. The damage is not only for agriculture, but also for electricity production: in 2022 hydroelectricity produced over a third less than the previous year.
The simple reduction of waste in the water service - a certainly necessary measure, on which the 4 billion euros allocated in the Pnrr are concentrated - cannot be enough, considering that the agricultural sector has always been the first consumer of water, with over 50% of withdrawals, and industry accounts for another 10-15% of national water needs, while civil uses account for less than a third. An overall strategy should also include other agricultural and productive uses.