EU report: Drought-hit Europe could face 3 more months of drought
Almost half of the 27 EU countries are under drought warning, with conditions worsening in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal , Romania and Spain. The report also notes an increase in drought risk outside the EU, in Britain, Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Copernicus said a shortage of rain and a streak of heat waves since May have led to dry conditions and lower river levels. This in turn has affected the energy sector, depriving hydroelectric and other power plants of their primary source of power and coolant.
Water shortages and heat stress are also reducing European crop yields, with maize, soybeans and sunflowers being the hardest hit. Recent rainfall in August helped some areas, but crops in other areas were battered by thunderstorms.
The report comes amid what experts say could be the continent’s worst drought in 500 years. Little significant rainfall has been recorded for almost two months, but Europe is not alone. Drought conditions are also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.
The climate exacerbates conditions as warmer temperatures accelerate evaporation, thirsty plants absorb more moisture, and reduced snowfall in winter limits the supply of fresh water available for irrigation in summer.
In Italy, authorities managing the northern Po River have placed the country’s longest waterway on the highest level of drought alert. Drought conditions have already caused billions of euros in losses to farmers who depend on them to irrigate fields and rice paddies.
More than 100 municipalities in France have water supply problems and drinking water is delivered by truck. More than 60 French departments are at the highest level of “crisis” warning. Supplies in Spain’s Andalusia and Extremadura regions are less than a third of normal, the report said.
Low water levels on the Rhine have seen Germany’s leading industry lobby group warn that factories may have to cut production or shut it down altogether. Falling water levels in the river also affect the transport of coal and oil in the Netherlands.
The Danube – Europe’s second longest river, which stretches from Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea in eastern Romania – has dropped to one of the lowest levels on record in a century last.