Thursday

29th Sep 2022

Almost two-thirds of Europe in danger of drought

  • Europe: 260,000 hectares, an area more than twice the size of Rome, went up in flames in July alone (Photo: Ricardo Faria)
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According to recent data released by the European Drought Observatory, 60 percent of Europe and the United Kingdom is currently in danger of drought.

The findings were based on data from a 10-day period near the end of July, which found 45 percent of the bloc's territory was under drought warning conditions by mid-July.

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  • According to data released by the European Drought Observatory 60 percent of Europe and the United Kingdom is in a state of drought. (Photo: European Drought Observatory)

In addition, 15 percent was on red alert, meaning severe water deficiency.

The EU's climate monitoring agency Copernicus likewise reported on Monday (8 August) that Europe continued to swelter in July, with temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius for at least one day in Spain, France, and the United Kingdom.

The UK saw a national daily maximum temperature record of 40.3°C — the first time the country ever recorded a temperature of over 40°C.

The May-to-July period was also the driest on record in Spain with water reserves at an all-time low of 40 precent, according to the country's meteorological agency.

The Dutch government officially declared a water shortage on Wednesday.

On Friday, French prime minister Élisabeth Borne announced unprecedented water restrictions, banning people from watering their lawns, washing their cars, and preventing farmers from irrigating crops.

France recorded its driest July in more than 60 years, with just 9.7 millimetres of rain.

As a result, more than 100 French municipalities have no running drinking water and are being supplied by truck.

According to a forecast published two weeks ago by the EU's Joint Research Centre, heat and drought may lead to an 8 to 9 percent drop in the production of grain maize, sunflowers, and soybeans in Europe.

River transport is also affected, as water levels continue to fall across the bloc.

The Kaub measuring point on the Rhine river, by far the most important water transport route in Europe, was down to 49 centimetres on Sunday, taking it to within 9 centimetres of being all but impassable.

Wildfire

Drought conditions have also led to an increase in wildfires, with multiple records broken, especially in the Mediterranean, as an area more than twice the size of Rome has gone up in flames in July alone.

The EU's Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) recorded a total burnt area of 587,868 hectares in the European Union on 30 July since the beginning of the year, compared with an average of around 158,000 hectares for the 2006-2021 reference period.

Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

With the prolonged lack of rain and high temperatures, fears have emerged over water shortages and droughts decreasing crop yields — prompting calls to use less water and reuse urban wastewater for agricultural irrigation.

Droughts could be the rule rather than the exception in Europe

The European Commission has kicked off an EU-wide political debate, aimed at establishing the "right" pricing on water as well as promoting water-saving habits such as efficient devices on shower heads. This comes with the prospect of most EU countries suffering from droughts by 2070.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

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