Lack of snow, rivers at an all-time low, rising average temperatures: all signs of an ongoing climate crisis

Fonte: ANBI

The Council of Ministers has recently declared a state of emergency over drought for five Italian regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto. An extreme measure but made necessary by the worst drought the country has faced in the last 70 years. The most serious consequences are expected on agriculture, where the lack of rain and the extraordinary heat have already put most crops at risk. According to Coldiretti, the damage already amounts to 3 billion euro.

How did we get to this point?

Exceptional heat, little winter snowfall in the mountains and sporadic precipitation have gradually reduced the water level for months. Rising average temperatures, which got up to 4°C, have caused water to evaporate from the soil and transpire faster from the leaves. According to ARPAV – the Veneto Region Environmental Agency – only 440 mm of rain fell from October 2021 to May 2022, compared to the regional average of 732 mm; the lowest value recorded in the last 28 years. A situation further aggravated by the lack of snow in the mountains, all of which had already melted between February and March. In addition, the alternation of heavy storms and long periods of drought also had a strong impact on the current situation, preventing the soil from storing water and gradually releasing it over time. 

In addition to unfavourable weather conditions, the current water shortage is also due to poor water resource management and a lack of adequate infrastructure. According to WWF data, for every 100 litres of water injected into the distribution network as much as 42 are lost and do not reach the taps in homes. At the same time, Italians consume more water than all Europeans: about 120-150 cubic metres per family in a year, with an average individual consumption of about 220 litres per day. Finally, the reduction of natural flooding areas, riparian forests and wetlands has taken away a fundamental tool for water supply. This type of vegetation, in fact, favours water retention and groundwater recharge, releasing the water resource gradually and helping to mitigate the effects of periods of severe drought.

What can we do?

By being more aware of our impacts, we can promote better water management. Etifor has initiated several projects in this field, working with both regional and national bodies. 

We collaborated with ERSAF – the Lombardy Agency for Forestry and Agriculture – to carry out an analysis of Lombardy’s springs and assess their use. The aim of the project was to calculate the economic value of the springs and define a scheme to pay for the related ecosystem services. Again with ERSAF, we have undertaken a project to protect and enhance the Adda River through the identification and mapping of all multifunctional riparian areas. In Veneto, with the Parco Fiume Brenta (Brenta River Park) initiative, we have started a virtuous path to safeguard the water resource and the ecosystems connected to it. In particular, the project aims to establish an environmental fund for mitigation/compensation of the negative impacts caused by the Integrated Water Service. In addition, we promote the creation of new Forest Infiltration Areas (FIAs), wooded areas that favour the infiltration of surface water into the subsoil in order to recharge the water table. An example of FIA is Bosco Limite, the result of an experiment that had among its objectives that of finding a solution for the over-exploitation of groundwater. Taking inspiration from nature is often the best solution, which is why we believe in the application of Nature-based Solutions (NBS). NBS are solutions that utilise the normal functioning of ecosystems, maximising the benefits they provide. In addition, we support the WEF Nexus (Water-Energy-Food Nexus) approach, born from the awareness of the interconnections between water, energy and food. In this regard, the LENSES project aims to realise precisely this approach, seeking to find practical solutions for the Mediterranean area. The aim is to reduce impacts and risks on water-dependent ecosystems. In a similar way, the REXUS project applies the WEF Nexus approach, including climate. REXUS aims to improve understanding of the interactions between water, energy, food and climate.

And what can your company do to protect the planet’s resources? Discover our MARC approach, specifically created to accompany companies and organisations on a path towards environmental and social responsibility.