Now that the dramatic pictures of the dried-up Po River are there for all to see, the question of what water resources are in our country and how we are managing them has become topical again.

Since the 1980s, the distribution of rainfall has changed, so that periods of drought have progressively increased, particularly with a decrease in summer rainfall. This phenomenon was considered almost ‘normal’ in the South, but as of this year, the worst affected areas are the North, North East and Centre, with the major rivers clearly dry.

In Italy, the average rainfall is higher than in England (it rains more in Rome than in London!), but we have to consider how it rains, because a thunderstorm that discharges several cubic metres of water in a few minutes has a different impact than a thin, continuous rain. Then, the crucial point is that our watercourses have a torrential character, whereas the rivers in Northern Europe flow for kilometres with large flows.

The problem is that, although Italy has potential water resources, it does not have the infrastructure to channel them. Our storage infrastructure was largely built in the 19th century, the last dams date back to the 1960s, and no maintenance is done. So we also have the highest percentage of leakage (42% certified by the authority) with some dramatic peaks in the south, where you put two litres of water into the networks to get less than one, with an incredible waste of energy as well.

In this situation, action must be taken immediately, especially because from 26 June 2023 the new EU rules for wastewater reuse will come into force, with respect to which we are totally in default.