France is currently experiencing a threatening drought, and that in the middle of winter. There has been no significant rainfall for 31 days, the weather service Météo France reported on Tuesday. This means that the previous record from 2020 has been reached.
This is causing the soil to dry out, which is remarkable for the time of year and has already been weakened by the drought in summer 2022. The condition corresponds to how you would normally find it in mid-April. The south of the country is particularly affected.
According to the experts, the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts is one of the consequences of man-made climate change. Among other things, they lead to the groundwater level falling further, drinking water becoming scarce in some areas and farmers having to fear lower harvests.
The drought is now a permanent phenomenon in France: Since August 2021, less rain has fallen in all but three months than has been the case so far on average. The government convened an advisory body on water supply for Thursday. A water schedule announced for January has been delayed by several weeks.
Water scarcity is already leading to numerous bottlenecks and conflicts. Several villages in the Ardèche and Massif Central regions are already being supplied with water by tanker. In the Pyrenees, some reservoirs such as Montbel in Ariège are only 20 to 30 percent full, and the surroundings are reminiscent of a lunar landscape.
In Picardy north of Paris, farmers worry about their crops. Chicory salad and potatoes in particular are at risk from the drought. "McDonald's wants a specific type of potato to make long, light-colored fries, but that particular type needs a lot of water and fertilizer," Victor Cuisiniez, who advises farmers, told broadcaster France Bleu. "Some farmers are reluctant to change their varieties," he explained.
The north of Italy is also affected by drought. The environmental organization Legambiente announced on Monday that 53 percent less snow had fallen in the Italian Alps in the past few months than the long-term average. In the Po basin, the country's largest river, precipitation has even fallen by 61 percent. The north and center of the Apennines are also affected - a mountain range that runs through large parts of Italy. Incidentally, it is also warmer than average in the winter month of February.
The organization appealed to the government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Monday, demanding a national water strategy. Specifically, the environmentalists proposed various measures to reduce water consumption and to better utilize rainwater. In the past few weeks there have been repeated reports of the effects of the drought in northern Italy.
Among other things, photos and videos of Lake Garda, which is popular with tourists and which has significantly less water than usual, made the headlines. In some cases, walkers can even reach islands on foot that are otherwise only accessible by water. In addition, photos from Venice recently showed gondolas lying on dry land in canals. However, the low water levels are not a direct result of the drought that has been affecting the region for months, it said. Rather, the lack of rain exacerbates the consequences of the ebb.