Environment and Energy Security Minister Gilberto Pichetto said on Friday water rationing may be necessary in some parts of the country because of the severe drought it is suffering.
Speaking to Radio 24, Picchetto stressed that “no decision has been taken on rationing. But I think that, after a round of talks with the big consortiums that manage the dams and with the managers of the national water system, it will be necessary to draw conclusions. And it’s possible that it could become fundamental to have this in some territories,” he added when asked about rationing.
The drought is causing big problems for farmers. But Pichetto said it could also have an impact on energy supplies.
“There are certainly risks for hydroelectric production, because, if the dams cannot let the water run down, the wheel does not turn,” he said. “We had some reductions (in hydroelectric production) last year and we hope that that it will be possible to fill the reservoirs in the next two or three months, as there should be some rain. Otherwise, there will be consequences”.
He added that electricity imports from France could be hit too. Paris has a plan to switch off some nuclear plants if there is a lack of water for cooling systems.
Severe drought and heat waves lead to water rationing
Low levels of rain and snowfall this winter exacerbated an already difficult situation. After the severe drought and long series of heat waves Italy endured last summer, its water resources have been badly hit.
Millions of Italians risk water ratioining in the coming months because of the drought. The cuts are most likely in northern regions, the head of the ANBI water-resource consortium said on Thursday.
“According to the data we have available, it is reasonable to believe that the tap water of at least three and a half million Italians cannot be taken for granted,” said ANBI President Francesco Vincenzi.
He referred to data by the National Research Council (CNR), according to which, between 6% and 15% of the Italian population are living in areas exposed to severe or extreme drought.
That warning came after Environmental association Legambiente sounded the alarm about the drought.
Citing figures from the CIMA Research Foundation, it said the Italian Alps currently have a snow-water-equivalent deficit of 53% compared to the average of the last ten years. This is worrying as snow is an important source of water in spring and summer when, by melting, it ensures water supplies in the months it is most needed.
This deficit is due to reduced precipitation levels this winter, combined with mild winter temperatures that have brought forward the melting of snow on the mountains. Alpine snow is Italy’s most important water reserve, since it supplies the Po River basin.