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Milan's decorative fountains will go quiet for a while, Source: magro_kr, on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Milan turns off fountains due to historic drought

Milan turns off fountains due to historic drought

The arid weather phenomenon is affecting the agricultural sector in Northern Italy to almost unprecedented levels

Yesterday, the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, ordered that the spigots of the city’s decorative fountains be turned off in view of the severe drought affecting all of Northern Italy. This is just one of the measures taken to prevent water wasting and conservation during the extreme aridity period.

The Lombardy Region (where Milan is located) declared a state of emergency on Friday after suffering a heat wave and months without any significant rainfall. The levels of the country’s main river – the Po – are so low that it is sure to affect the harvest season this year. The latter adds to already elevated concerns about food security in the wake of the Ukraine war.

Irrigation capacity under threat

Mayor Sala said the ordinance would turn off decorative fountains except those holding flora and fauna that need fresh water. It further limits the use of water sprinklers except for new-growth trees.

The mayor also decreed that shops in Italy's business and fashion capital can't set thermostats under 26 degrees Celsius and must keep their doors closed to avoid overtaxing the power grid.

What’s more, the Archbishop of Milan made a pilgrimage on Saturday to pray for rain, visiting churches in the farming outskirts of the city.

Italy’s drought has dried up rivers crucial for irrigation, including the Po, threatening some 3 billion euros in agriculture, Italian farm lobby Coldiretti said this week. Italy's confederation of agricultural producers, Copagri, estimates the loss of 30%-40% of the seasonal harvest.

The regional governments of Piedmonte, Emilia Romagna and Lazio have also declared states of emergency due to the drought. Italy's longest river, the Po, which crosses the major northern regions and accounts for around a third of the country’s agricultural production, is experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.

Italy’s other major rivers and lakes are below normal June levels. The weather forecast for the rest of the month adds to the concern, with temperatures expected to be 10C-12C above normal next week, with peaks of up to 44 degrees Celsius expected on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.

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