Italian region calls for limiting non-essential water use amid severe drought

Italy’s most populous region of Lombardy said it will turn off public fountains and urged residents to be “extremely thrifty” when it comes to water use, in order to reduce the impacts of what the regional governor called Monday the region’s worst water crisis ever.

“We have never seen a drought as serious as the one we are seeing this year,” Lombardy Regional President Attilio Fontana said.

Fontana signed an emergency decree Friday, though the text was only published on Monday. It will remain in force until at least Sept. 30.

In a statement, the regional government said it would turn off public fountains in Milan with the exception of those providing drinking water or public fountains that are home to fish or aquatic plants. It also recommended cities use water in “an extremely thrifty, sustainable, and effective way, limiting consumption to a bare minimum.”

The regional decree also called for limiting the use of water for non-essential activities such as washing roads and building exteriors, as well as the irrigation of public parks and sports facilities.

The regional government did not rule out water rationing for homes and businesses if the crisis continues.

In an interview with Sky TG24, Italy’s Civil Protection Department Chief Fabrizio Curcio said Monday that the Po River, Italy’s longest and the main water source in Lombardy, was suffering from water supplies 80 percent below normal levels.

Italy’s agricultural association Coldiretti estimated last week that the economic damage caused by the drought so far totaled more than 3 billion euros (3.2 billion U.S. dollars).