(Bloomberg) -- Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern and central regions devastated by a recent drought, as a severe heat wave takes its toll on agriculture and threatens power supplies.
High temperatures and exceptionally dry conditions have brought water levels in the Po, the country’s largest river, to its lowest in 70 years.
Even amid a historically arid summer across Europe, the situation in the Po valley stands out. Months without rains and an earlier-than-usual halt in flows from melting snow in the western Alps have made large swaths of the river bed visible — so much so that a German tank from World War II resurfaced recently.
Hydroelectric power, which usually supplies 15% of the country’s needs, is down 50% so far this year, while waters from the Adriatic sea have entered into the Po delta for a record 30.6 kilometers, threatening farming and drinking water supplies. Northern Italian towns are already rationing water.
The extreme conditions have led to an estimated 30% decline in seasonal harvest, including forage, barley, grain and rice in the region, according to agricultural group Coldiretti, exacerbating an already precarious situation for the industry -- which the lobby called “strategic” for the national economy -- due to the war in Ukraine.