Water stress and severe droughts are even affecting traditionally cool countries, which have imposed restrictions on water consumption to ensure supply due to a phenomenon that is beginning to have a global character.
In Europe, countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom -beyond those in the southern Mediterranean and the warmest regions of America, the Middle East and the punished Africa- are suffering much higher temperatures than normal, with effects on their reserves of water and water supply and also in economic and social activity, among others.
In addition, mega-fires proliferate, fueled by high temperatures, which this summer are repeated in the world, such as those in California (USA), and which contrast with the torrential rains that devastate everything they catch, with floods, such as those in these days in the state of Kentucky, with at least thirty deaths.
“The successive heat waves this summer can be considered exceptional, without a doubt. It is quite extraordinary that such high values coincide in the three parameters with which we measure the severity of a heat wave: intensity, extension and duration,” he explains. Pilar Paneque, professor of Human Geography at the Pablo Olavide University and head of the Human Drought Observatory, told Efe.
“This exceptionality -she adds- can only be explained by the reality of global warming, which until now we have not dealt with sufficiently or with the urgency that it deserved many years ago”.
“We also know that these episodes (heat waves, droughts, floods, etc.) will intensify and become more recurrent, so inaction is incomprehensible, as well as very costly in economic terms,” she says.
In southern Europe, after three heat waves since the beginning of the summer, Spain has already seen the volume of water in its reservoirs reduced to around 40% of its total capacity and there are several autonomous communities with restrictions on water consumption, not only in torrid Andalusia, but also in Galicia or Catalonia.
The closure of showers on beaches, night water supply cuts or the prohibition of irrigation of gardens and orchards and car washing are some of the measures adopted in Spain.
On the other hand, some Andalusian farmers are sacrificing part of their avocado plantations due to the severe drought and the production of table olives may also be affected.
Also in Portugal, almost half of the territory suffers from extreme drought, and the current hydrological year is, to date, the second driest since 1931. Among its new measures to address this situation is the request to the Algarve tourism sector that ration the use of water, especially on golf courses and green spaces.
In Italy, the banks of the Po are suffering the worst drought in the last seventy years and a state of emergency has just been approved in five regions, with 36 million euros allocated mainly to farmers. In the north, measures have been implemented such as the rationing of water to irrigate fields, the prohibition of filling swimming pools and watering private gardens, and night supply cuts.
In France, the metropolitan territory is officially in a state of drought, with 57 of its 96 departments on red alert and 32 on orange. In large areas there are restrictions on the use of water for irrigation or car washing and in departments such as the alpine Alta Savoy, on high alert, tanker trucks are used to provide drinking water.
Further north, in Germany, the drought complicates navigation on the Rhine, whose flow is lower than usual although without reaching the historical minimum of 2018, so the ships are now shallower and the load has been reduced to 50 or 30% of the normal volume for transporting raw materials such as coal and fuel.
In Poland, hundreds of municipalities have restrictions on certain uses of water and its longest river, the Vistula, is approaching historical minimum flow levels, for which passenger transport “ferries” have been suspended in the capital.
The United Kingdom is not exempt from this situation either. According to the Met Office weather agency, last month was the driest July in England since 1935. In fact, every month this year except February has seen less than average rainfall and Southern Water has banned hoses stream in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
On the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States the drought continues to rage, although there are great differences in terms of water stress. In one of the most affected states, California, several southern territories have established limits on water consumption this summer.
In Mexico, a drought emergency was declared in July, and in the city of Monterrey, the second most populous, more than 5 million inhabitants lack a supply of drinking water for much of the day because the dams have dried up. According to its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, no more water exploitation concessions will be made to private companies in states experiencing drought.
In Argentina, the drought continues, although less severe than at this time last year, and much of the lack of rain is explained by the effect of the La Niña climate phenomenon.
In the Middle East, the drought suffered by Iran for decades has been aggravated by population growth and excessive use of aquifers. The torrential rains this summer have barely improved the water reserves and have caused irreparable losses.
Africa, the most affected continent, despite its insignificant contribution to climate change, is being “hit harder than ever”, according to Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an economic bloc of eight nations in the region. , who has expressed his fear that the situation will worsen because “the prospects for the rainy season are bleak.”