Better not fill the pool

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France: Drought on the Côte d'Azur 

In France it is already as dry as usual at the end of July, reports Météo France. The country has just experienced the earliest heat wave ever recorded - with temperatures of up to 43 degrees and the first forest fires. France's agriculture minister has already promised farmers national solidarity. Because the water table is sinking, and even heavy rainfall will not be able to stabilize it, France's geologists warn in their bulletin. As a result, some 40 départements have already restricted water use.

In the Vendée on the Atlantic or in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, the situation is worrying. There, above Nice, lies the picturesque mountain village of Villars-sur-Var. Here, the supply source has carried a third less drinking water within a month - while consumption has remained the same. So as not to be left high and dry, mayor René Briquetti has tapped into a new source - but only for showers and toilets. Brushing teeth, cooking or drinking tap water was prohibited for four days. The reason: He first needed the green light from the hygiene authority that the new drinking water mixture  was safe. Until then, the 760 residents could pick up two liter bottles of water per person per day from the town hall.

Meanwhile, the mayor, who has become known throughout France, announced on French television: The new drinking water is clean. In the village, which is actually located on a lush green mountain river, it had not rained for a long time. Added to this was the heat. In the entire department around Nice on the Côte d'Azur, which is popular with swarms of tourists, drought has been a problem for weeks. Washing cars, filling pools, blowing up lawns - all forbidden. Even the fountains have been turned off. In Villars-sur-Var, people are now looking forward to an aperitif under plane trees again, one with ice cubes. Stefanie Markert, ARD Studio Paris

What to watch out for: In Groix, France, a poster urges people to use water sparingly. Image: AFP

Portugal: A disastrous chain of events

Portugal is suffering from extreme drought this year. Currently, two-thirds of the country is experiencing extreme drought, and one-third is experiencing severe drought. A particularly dry winter, high water consumption in agriculture and the tourism industry, pipeline losses - many factors are coming together. Although the Minister for the Environment and Climate Policy assures that drinking water supplies will last for at least two years, he calls on all Portuguese to save water wherever possible.

A nationwide campaign to raise awareness is planned for July - in some chronically dry regions it has been going on for some time. Portugal now also wants to use money from the EU's Corona Reconstruction Fund to make water management future-proof and sustainable. Among other things, irrigation with service water is to be promoted and seawater desalination plants built, powered by energy from renewable sources.

Portugal's agriculture is also partly dependent on water from rivers that originate in Spain. Because Spain also suffers more frequently from drought, so much water is repeatedly taken from there that it causes problems for Portuguese agriculture. The neighboring countries have now once again agreed on close coordination. Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD Studio Madrid

The Guadiana River in Portugal carries significantly less water than usual - the causes are not only to be found in Portugal. Image: EPA

Italy: Waiting for rain

The drought could continue for weeks, fears the Civil Defense in Italy. At the moment, northern regions are particularly affected, but the water shortage is increasingly spreading to the south, with calls for a national emergency growing louder. The level of the Po, Italy's longest river, is the lowest it has been in 70 years, and in some places it hasn't rained in four months.

At the same time, there is a lack of melt water from the mountains; the winter was too mild. As a result, lakes such as Lake Maggiore are also under-filled. In agriculture, production has fallen sharply, with barley and corn harvests affected, and the cultivation of tomatoes and fruit such as watermelons at risk. For rice farmers in the Po Delta, the situation is particularly dramatic, as salty seawater seeps into the river for kilometers, making it impossible to sow.

In many communities, water is rationed, people are only allowed to use it for drinking or other vital purposes, and in some cases the water is shut off overnight. Tanker trucks are also on the road. A dispute has broken out over Italy's largest lake, Lake Garda. It is supposed to release water, but local officials fear for its reserves; it, too, could then become a sick lake. Elisabeth Pongratz, ARD Studio Rome

The Po River in northern Italy is also recording significantly lower levels. Image: dpa

Poland: Acutely threatened by water shortages

Water scarcity is also an issue in Poland, especially in the particularly affected areas in the west and northwest of the country, in the area around Poznan or in western Pomerania - where droughts dry up swimming lakes and drive farmers to despair every year.

In addition to climate change, the water crisis is also homemade. Unlike in the "wilder" eastern part of the country, people in western Poland have practiced intensive agriculture over the decades, draining natural wetlands and clearing trees. In the east, on the other hand, extensive primeval forests such as the Bialowieza still function as natural water reservoirs, although it is also becoming drier there and there have recently been significant peat bog fires.


Measured by statistics, Poland is already one of the EU countries acutely threatened by water scarcity, according to the UN definition. In terms of freshwater reserves, the country ranks among the lowest in the EU, with 1600 cubic meters of renewable freshwater per inhabitant. This is despite the fact that the natural course of events has not yet been straightened out in many places. The Vistula, for example, meanders through the country in large parts quite undisturbed and pushes entire sandbanks in front of it - with the nice effect that stressed city dwellers from Warsaw, for example, find hidden idylls by the cool water there, where they can let their souls dangle for a while all alone. Jan Pallokat, ARD Studio Warsaw

The system of intensive agriculture is reaching its limits in western Poland, but a change of direction is needed, published at 25.06.2022


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