The Italian Council of Ministers has decreed a state of water emergency in six Italian regions and in the Apennine District (a famous Italian mountain chain); four other regions are considering requesting it. According to the administrators of these regions, the main culprits of this drought emergency in Southern Europe are the scarcity of winter and spring rainfall, the increase in average temperatures and, more generally, climate change.
In addition, the rains have decreased by about 20% compared to the averages from 1991 to 2020, the state of health of rivers and lakes is decidedly worrying, with flows to historical lows and with a consequent decrease in the amount of water stored in the soil, so much so as to have to impose severe restrictions of use in many territories not only Italian. The scarcity of precipitation is a phenomenon that has affected the whole of Europe, weighing heavily on all agri-food productions as well as on the production of hydroelectric energy.
The drought “emergency” is no longer a mere emergency, it is now an endemic problem
It is certainly a serious situation but, thinking about it, it is not correct to call this problem an “emergency” since it is not an unexpected and accidental phenomenon, and that it requires immediate interventions to compensate for a danger for the population. The drought is the result of atavistic problems in the sector; network losses, the ageing and poor maintenance of infrastructures and, above all, excessive management fragmentation.
However, the state of emergency does not have a precise legal meaning in the Italian legal system and, more or less, it is a matter of providing a protective shield that allows administrators to carry out interventions (and related expenses) without having to implement all the procedures provided for by administrative transparency. In practice, the declaration of the state of emergency allows you to entrust works and contracts without tender procedures, or choose whether to finance a more demagogic work instead of another more effective on a technical level, for mainly political and nepotistic reasons.
The interventions necessary to adapt to the new reality are much more than emergency interventions: it is necessary to increase the water storage capacity, modernize the existing reservoirs and build new ones, renew and make the water network more efficient, reducing losses and ensuring timely monitoring of uses, promote a rational use of water in the agricultural and industrial sectors, implement all activities to allow the reuse of wastewater and sensitize citizens to a responsible use of the resource, informing correctly.
Author: Dr. Rossella Colagrossi, former director of the Italian Ministry of Health, responsible for the correct application of the legislation concerning water intended for human consumption