Why Spain is on the verge of becoming a desert

Why Spain is on the verge of becoming a desert

'Europe’s back garden' Spain is running out of water and is on the path to becoming a desert.

Southern Europe is all set to face another year of brutal summers and heatwaves, triggering fears that Europe might be on its way to facing water shortages of a level never seen in decades. The trend, attributed to climate change, is expected to spell doom for Europe’s agriculture as well as the power industry. Where farmers are expecting the lowest yield in decades on one hand, hydropower production is also expected to take a severe hit on the other.

Spain “becoming a desert”

The country suffered a long and painful drought last year. And no relief is expected this year either, thus severely threatening Spain’s food exports to other European Union nations. As per France 24, the month of April was the driest on record, and several cities recorded their highest temperatures in decades. Jorge Olcina, head of the climatology laboratory at the University of Alicante, said, “The situation is particularly alarming in the regions of Catalonia and Andalusia, where the water reservoirs are at less than 25 per cent of their capacity."

Spain is known as “Europe’s back garden” because it exports a large part of its agricultural production, and Spanish farmers are, unsurprisingly, among the first to suffer the consequences of a water shortage.

Patricio Garcia-Fayos, director of the Desertification Research Centre in Valencia, even fretted that a large part of Spain will become desert in the coming years. He said, "It’s essential to fight against climate change and at the same time learn how to manage our water better. Otherwise, a large part of Spain will be a desert in a few years."

France facing its driest winter since 1959

Paris has already activated the drought crisis alert in the country’s four departmental prefects. People living in Ain, Isère, Bouches-du-Rhône and the Pyrénées-Orientales are prohibited from using water for non-priority purposes, including watering their lawns and filling their swimming pools. The irony is that the country which was on the verge of facing a food crisis last year has now asked its farmers in these regions to avoid using water for irrigation.

Similarly, Portugal is also experiencing an early arrival of drought.  90 per cent of the mainland is facing drought, with 20 per cent of the country facing extreme drought.

Why Spain is on the verge of becoming a desert
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The agriculture sector of Italy is also under stress after two years of water scarcity. According to Luca Brocca, a director of research at Italy's National Research Council, “Northern Italy has a 70% deficit in snow water reserves and a 40% deficit of soil moisture.”

Climate change behind the summer crisis

Experts blame climate change for excruciating summer and water shortages in southern Europe as well as in the Horn of Africa. Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University, said, "In terms of the climate change signal, it very much fits with what we're expecting.”

Many farming regions have yet to adopt water-saving methods like precision irrigation or switch to more drought-hardy crops, such as sunflowers.

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