Brussels, Jul 18 (EFE).- A “staggering portion” of Europe is at risk of extreme drought, according to a report published by the European Commission on Monday.
The study by the EC’s Joint Research Centre found that a drought that has been affecting much of the continent since the start of the year has been exacerbated by scorching heat waves and dry conditions in May and June.
The lack of precipitation has “impacted river discharges widely” across Europe, with the Po in northern Italy at the “highest level of drought severity.”
A drought emergency has been declared for five northern Italian regions, home to 42% of the country’s population and responsible for over half of Italy’s GDP.
The drought conditions in Spain are “extremely favorable” for wildfires, the report said, as firefighters in Spain and neighboring Portugal tackle dozens of forest fires.
The low rain levels are also affecting reservoirs and hydroelectric power stations, the report found. In Spain, water stored in reservoirs is 31% lower than average for the last 10 years, and basins are only half full in the southern Andalusia region and Portugal, where the risk of forest fires is “high to extreme.”
The conditions are not expected to improve any time soon, the study warned, with “severely drier than normal conditions” predicted for the remainder of the summer for swathes of central and southern Europe, as well as the UK and Ireland.
“These forecasts add concerns to the already critical situation, and, if confirmed, will exacerbate drought severity and the impacts on agriculture, energy and water supply,” the report said. EFE