The famous Venice canals are currently suffering from a lack of water with gondolas stuck in the mud and water taxis and ambulances unable to operate.
Weeks of dry winter weather have raised concerns that the country could face supply shortages – in the wake of last summer’s lack of water – with the Alps having received less than half of their usual snowfall.
The warning comes as Venice, where flooding is normally the primary concern, faces unusually low tides leaving gondolas stranded in muddy, dried-up Venice canal beds.
It’s after water levels fell to nearly 19 inches below sea level, with forecasters expecting the tide to drop even lower.
The problems are being blamed on a combination of factors including a high pressure system, a full moon, and sea currents – as well as the lack of rain.
Global warming is a key factor as high temperatures increase the odds of worsening drought, reducing surface water in rivers and lakes and drying out soils and vegetation
Warmer winter temperatures are also causing less precipitation to fall as snow in winter.
Not Reserved For Venice Canals
But it’s not just the Venice canals that are falling prey to higher temperatures, Italian rivers and lakes in the north of the country are all suffering from a severe lack of water, according to the Legambiente environmental group.
Its scientists say the Po, Italy’s longest river which runs from the Alps in the north-west to the Adriatic, has 61 per cent less water than normal at this time of year.
In July last year, Italy suffered its worst drought for 70 years and declared a state of emergency in the areas surrounding the Po, which accounts for roughly a third of the country’s agricultural production.
It’s estimated to have cost the agricultural sector around €6 billion in lost production.
Olive trees dried up and half the water evaporated in some hydropower reservoirs.
‘We are in a water deficit situation that has been building up since the winter of 2020-2021,’ climate expert Massimiliano Pasqui from the country’s National Research Council (CNR) said.
‘We need to recover 500mm in the north-western regions: we need 50 days of rain,’ he said.
Water levels on Lake Garda in northern Italy have fallen to record lows, making it possible to reach the small island of San Biagio on the lake via an exposed pathway.
An anticyclone phenomenon in western Europe for the last 15 days has brought the kind of mild temperatures usually witnessed in late spring.
But forecasters expect much-needed rain and snow in the Alps in the coming days and Venice canals are expected to regain normal water levels this week.