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Nearly half of EU territory at risk of drought as heatwave strikes Europe

Agriculture in union’s southern states takes beating, with river basin in Italy facing worst possible level of drought

Boats in Brenets Lake (Lac des Brenets), part of the Doubs River, which has dried up due to a combination of factors, including geological faults that drain the river, decreased rainfall and heat waves. It acts as a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland, July 18, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)
Boats in Brenets Lake (Lac des Brenets), part of the Doubs River, which has dried up due to a combination of factors, including geological faults that drain the river, decreased rainfall and heat waves. It acts as a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland, July 18, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Researchers at the European Commission warned on Monday that nearly half of the EU’s territory is currently at risk of drought, as southwest Europe wilted under a punishing heatwave.

In a report for July, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre said that 46 percent of the EU’s territory was exposed to warning-level drought, with 11 percent at an alert level, with crops already suffering from the lack of water.

Italy was the hardest hit, with the Po River basin in the north of the country facing the highest level possible of drought severity, the EU said.

In Spain, water reservoir volumes are currently 31 percent lower than the 10-year average, the report said, while in Portugal, water to produce hydroelectric energy is at half the average of the previous seven years.

The EU researchers also warned that the lack of water and strong heat are driving crop yields lower in France, Romania, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Weather forecasts predict more of the same, the report said, adding to an already “very critical situation” that will exacerbate the effects on agriculture, energy, and water supply.

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