People living in some towns in northern Italy are facing fines for wasting water during a severe drought as the mayor rationed supplies.
Italy experienced one of the driest winters in the past 65 years, with rainfall 80% below the seasonal average. The situation is more severe in the north, where some areas have not experienced significant rainfall for three months or more. The Po, the longest river in the country, is at its lowest winter water level since 1972.
The mayors of Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy and Trentino have imposed water restrictions, including closing fountains and restricting running water at night, as well as banning water for gardens and land, washing cars and filling swimming pools .
Fines of up to 500 euros are imposed for those who are considered wasteful.
“I don’t remember anything like this in winter. We haven’t had any rain since December 8,” said Francesco Piet, mayor of the Piedmont town of Quarona. Francesco Pietrasanta said. “There are problems with wells and some areas have to be supplied with water from tanks. The rule is to only use water when it is really needed, for example for hygiene or food reasons.”
In Bajardo, a Ligurian village, the water supply to the taps was shut off between 8pm and 8am. Its mayor, Francesco Laura, said he had no choice. “The spring has dried up,” he told La Stampa. “The water in the mountains doesn’t come anymore, and the little bit of water from the taps in the village is used for cooking and washing clothes.” Laura said that since October 2020, there has been little rain in the village.
The winter drought follows an intense and protracted heatwave that swept Italy last summer. In August, Siracusa in Sicily set a figure of 48.8 degrees Celsius, believed to have broken the European record for the highest temperature. Snowfall this winter was also below average.
Scientists have long predicted that the climate crisis and global warming will lead to more frequent extreme weather.
“There has been no snow and no rain in six months,” Massimoniero, the mayor of Cissano Surneva, Liguria, told local newspaper Il Vostro Giornale. “There will be problems in the summer.”
Rain is expected in the north and the rest of Italy from Wednesday, although Pietrasanta said it would be important to address water shortages.
“We might have some rain on Friday, but I’m not sure if that’s enough,” he said. “This situation should lead us to consider changing policies to manage water resources differently, especially in the context of climate change.”