Drought had already reduced the water yield of many natural waters in Germany drastically last year, but this year, due to the record heat wave sweeping across Europe, experts are warning about the possibility of actual water shortages in some areas.
The situation is particularly alarming in Eastern Germany: residential water supply is now at risk along with agricultural use due to the low water levels. The region is supplied by the Elbe and Oder rivers, but their water levels were already low before the heat wave.
The unusual drought has already had many negative consequences in agriculture: German farmers expect that yields of cereals and corn will be far below previous years. Due to last year’s drought, which had affected about ninety percent of the country’s territory, some eight thousand farmers were forced to apply for special subsidies.
This year’s was the third hottest summer in Germany since the beginning of regular meteorological records in 1881, according to preliminary data from the Federal Meteorological Service.
In 2011, Laguna de Aculeo, one of the country’s favourite bathing resorts, still covered 12 square kilometres, and the lake was 6 metres deep – but since then, it has completely dried out.
The problem of the water shortages caused by global warming is much more complex than we have thought. In some parts of Africa, people not only need to face thirst but also the fact that the regions impacted by drought emit a quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent to the emissions of two hundred million cars each year.
According to a new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that focuses on the interaction between climate change, desertification and food security, if present land use habits are maintained, the planet’s capacity to produce food will drop drastically.
The EU is contributing a further 50 million euro to alleviate drought damage in a number of Eastern and Central African countries. According to estimates, more than 4 million children and about 3 million pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are undernourished in the region.
According to a report from the World Resources Institute, 17 countries are facing extremely high water stress, from India through Israel to Botswana. Many of the countries in question – which, collectively, are home to a quarter of the world’s population – are in the Middle East and North Africa.
Drought in the South African country that largely relies on hydroelectric power is causing not only shortages of drinking water but also power outages of up to 16 hours a day in the capital.
The water yield of the River Nile is becoming increasingly erratic as a result of climate change, which may have very grave consequences for Egypt.
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Climate change is increasingly making itself felt in Europe, too: flash floods, heat waves, droughts and forest fires are on the rise on the continent.