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‘Drastic’ water rationing looms for Rome as drought blights Italy

Andreas SOLARO, AFP | A woman looks at an empty fountain in St Peter's Square, in Vatican city, after the Vatican authorities decision to turn off some of the 100 fountains due to a drought affecting Rome, on July 25, 2017.
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Some of the driest weather to affect Italy’s in 60 years and Rome’s notoriously leaky pipes has left the city’s residents fearing water rationing.


Italian media is reporting that staggered water supply shutdowns could last as long as eight hours daily in alternating neighborhoods and start as soon as Wednesday.

La Stampa newspaper reported on Sunday that inadequate water infrastructure, often decades-old, ranged from 26 percent in the north to 46 percent in the central and southern parts of the country.

Nicola Zingaretti, the governor of Lazio region -- which includes the Italian capital -- ordered that no more water be drawn from Lake Bracciano, which supplies some of the Italian capital. She stated that this was due to the drastically decreasing water levels posing a threat to the lake’s aquatic life. The lake used to be used only for backup water supply, but recent years have seen it being tapped on a regular basis.

Water turns political

Rome’s water company Acea warned that with the lake now cut off, drastic rationing loomed.

Since the city of Rome is a major shareholder in Acea, populist 5-Star Movement Mayor Virginia Raggi is feeling the heat. Michele Meta, a Democratic party lawmaker from Rome, demanded to know why Acea "doesn't have other solutions besides rationing and staggering the capital's water" supply?

Causing further concern for the city’s key tourism industry, Rome's world famous fountains – such as the iconic Trevi Fountain -- also risk running dry. Vatican City has already said that it is shutting off its fountains   including those in the world famous Saint Peter’s Square   as a result of the drought that has left rainfall totals 80% below normal.

Disaster for farmers

Despite the severe infrastructure issues, Mother Nature is partly to blame. Rome has had only 26 rainy days in this year's first six months of this year, compared to 88 in the first half of 2016.

Farmers' lobby Coldiretti last week estimated 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) worth of damage so far to Italian agriculture due to the crisis. Among those suffering are farmers growing canning tomatoes in the southeastern region of Puglia, wine grapes throughout much of Italy and those cultivating olives -- all signature crops for the nation.

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