River Po drought

Drought crisis worsens along River Po

By Region Environment News North-east Italy North-west Italy

The River Po in the north of Italy is running at 40% less flow. Authorities say the crisis is “worsening and serious”.

The drought affecting the River Po is worsening, the authority that manages Italy’s longest river said on Thursday.

 “There is an emergency in the Delta and Piedmont but the whole area is in difficulty,” the authority said. However, in the Po Basin, the drought “is getting worse and is serious.

Up to 40% less flow is recorded in the examined sections of the Po and up to 60% less in the tributaries. The lack of water is said to be due to a continuing lack of rain, snow and the “grave aridity” of soils, coupled with the progressive impoverishment of the underground water tables.

Related article: Po as dry as in summer

Drought SOS

It is the SOS launched by the Observatory on water crises ithin the Po River District Authority-Ministry of Ecological Transition. Several indicators of the water alert, in an advanced state, due to the persistent lack of snow, rain, the “severe aridity” of the soils and the progressive impoverishment of the underground strata.

In February, the expected rains fell scarcely and unevenly. That which did fall did not bring substantial relief and improvements. Meanwhile, the average temperatures confirmed an increase trend of 3 degrees centigrade “which characterises this anomalous winter as the second warmest of the last 40 years.”

Regarding water flow rates, a condition of marked winter hydrological drought persists throughout the Po river. In February, Piacenza was particularly bad.

The accumulated rains are well below the average of the 2006-2020 period and close to the minimum values. Only February 2012 and 2020 recorded lower accumulations, making this winter the third driest in the last 65 years. The extent of the snow cover throughout the Alps is close to the minimum. The total amount of water stored in this way is 70% lower than the seasonal average. A figure, according to the Observatory, destined to worsen because the advance of the spring season prevents a “recharge” of the resource.

Great Lakes affected

The Great Lakes and the Alpine and Apennine reservoirs are also suffering. Lake Maggiore is just above zero hydrometric. Como and Iseo below zero hydrometric. The low levels of the lakes are a problem both for navigation and the habitat. The low rainfall of the period and the rise in sea level also contribute significantly to the advancement of the saline wedge leading to the intrusion of salty waters into fresh waters.

This phenomenon currently affects a large stretch of the Adriatic coast near the Po River Delta, in the provinces of Rovigo and Ferrara. They have an intrusion in the irrigated areas of between 10 and 15 kilometres.

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