Europe is facing its worst drought in at least 500 years, with two-thirds of the continent in a state of alert or warning, reducing inland shipping, electricity production and the yields of certain crops, the European Drought Observatory (EDO) said in its August report.
The agency which is overseen by the European Commission, said 47% of Europe is under warning conditions, with clear deficit of soil moisture, and 17% in a state of alert, in which vegetation is affected.
“The combination of a severe drought and heatwaves has created an unprecedented stress on water levels in the entire EU,” European Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said in a statement. “We are currently noticing a wildfires season sensibly above the average and an important impact on crops production.”
The impact of forest fires has been particularly acute in Portugal. Italy has declared a state of emergency for areas around the River Po, and in late July a previously submerged 450kg World War Two bomb was discovered in the low-running waters of the country’s longest river.
In Germany, the lack of rainfall has meant the Rhine, a vital north-west European waterway used to transport oil, petrol, coal and other raw materials, has dropped to such a low level, less freight can be transported, leading to delays and higher costs.
The Netherlands declared an official water shortage. In Belgium, meanwhile, forecasters reported the driest July since 1885In the midst of an energy crisis, drought is also putting pressure on the power supply. Hydropower generation, which relies on water to produce electricity, has fallen by 44% in Spain, according to the BBC.
The EU’s experts said they expect the warm and dry conditions, which are fueling wildfires and reducing crop outputs, to continue in parts of the region until November.
With reporting by Reuters, BBC, The Guardian