Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Europe Grapples With Specter of Worst Drought in Centuries

Voice of America
15 Mar 2023, 08:36 GMT+10

Paris - After a record 32 days without rain, some precipitation - in the form of high winds and storms - has dampened France. But it might be a short-term reprieve.

France's minister for ecological transition, Christophe Bechu, warns the country can't count on its severely depleted groundwater tables next summer. He's called for vigilance in water consumption. Some local authorities are now rolling out water restrictions, which could expand to more places if dry weather persists. They could especially affect major water-consuming sectors such as agriculture and nuclear power.

France is not the only country gripped by drought. So are parts of Italy, Spain, Germany and Britain - along with Turkey and North Africa.

"We are concerned due to the lack precipitation accumulating in the Mediterranean region,' said Andrea Toreti, who heads the drought team for the European Commission's Copernicus European and Global Drought Observatory.

Europe must adopt mitigation and adaptation measures to cope with a changing climate that's becoming the new normal, said Toreti. One step Europe could take, said Toreti, would be to change crop varieties to those favoring less water and shorter growing seasons.

"We need to look not just at tomorrow, but also what will happen in the coming years,' said Toreti.

That's a step Paris-area grain farmer Jerome Regnault is already considering.

Though the latest rains are good news, they can't make up for weeks of drought, he said. He and other farmers waited before planting and fertilizing - especially because fertilizer has become expensive since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

French farmers and environmentalists have clashed over the idea of building enormous water basins for agricultural use. Regnault, who doesn't irrigate, is against massive basins but supports using natural runoff.

Today's tensions suggest France and other European countries could face more water wars to come.

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