Extreme drought prevails throughout Portugal, Spanish reservoirs are emptying, Italy is declaring a drought emergency, and forest fires are increasing in Greece. And summer has only just begun.

A tough summer is on the horizon for southern Europe. There is already a water shortage in Spain because the drought is causing the level of many reservoirs to drop.

In Portugal there is talk of the worst drought in 20 years. The Italian government has declared a drought emergency for five regions of the country in order to be able to support them quickly with money and aid. And in Greece, the fire brigade counted 311 forest fires within a week and warned that the risk of fire remains high.

Regional differences in water levels in Spain

In Spain, the reservoirs are still 46 percent full on average – the lowest level since records began 17 years ago, the newspaper “La Vanguardia” reported on Tuesday, citing the Ministry for Ecological Change in Madrid.

It is expected that the level will continue to decline until September. A recovery is not expected until autumn. However, there are some major regional differences. In some regions, the water levels are even above the long-term average. However, the situation is currently bad in the Guadalquivir Basin in the south and in the Guadiana Basin in the center and south-west of Spain.

Drinking water rationing would not be considered for the time being, wrote “La Vanguardia”, citing the authorities. However, the lack of water is already affecting agriculture and livestock, river shipping and tourism, reported the Spanish state television broadcaster RTVE. Some municipalities and holiday home owners would not have filled their swimming pools to voluntarily save water.

Drought emergency in Italy

In Portugal, meanwhile, there is talk of the worst drought in the past 20 years. After the hottest May since 1931, more than 97 percent of the territory is currently suffering from severe drought, according to the latest data from the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). The government in Lisbon is therefore conducting campaigns to use water more efficiently.

In Italy, the drought emergency has been in effect in Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia since Monday and until December 31st. Large lakes like Lake Garda have significantly less water than usual at this time of year. The water level in the Po River – Italy’s longest river – dropped so low that salt water seeped into the riverbed for miles at the mouth of the sea. In some places, the level is lower than it has been in 70 years.

Next fire risk in Greece

Greece, on the other hand, has not had any current problems with the water supply so far – the reservoirs are full, according to the state waterworks. Nevertheless, people fear that there will be serious forest fires again this summer after tens of thousands of hectares of forest fell victim to the flames last year.

In the past seven days alone, the Greek fire brigade counted 311 forest fires. Hundreds of firefighters and volunteers fought on three major fire fronts on Tuesday night, including on the Peloponnese peninsula and in central Greece. The risk of fire is still high because of the persistent drought, a spokesman for the fire brigade warned that they were on alert.