How to deal with drought?
Across Europe, farmers are grappling with the consequences of drought this summer: in Romania, sunflowers and maize are drying up in the fields, and in Italy's Po Valley, the rice harvest has been written off entirely. In almost all of France's 96 departments, there are already restrictions on drinking water consumption. Europe's media discuss ways to deal with water shortages.
Take action on all levels
France urgently needs a national plan for water management, Philippe Rio, president of the water utilities in the southern Paris metropolitan area, demands in Libération:
“Water policy is facing ever greater challenges, but the instruments meant to address this are underfunded and more and more is being demanded of ever fewer staff. ... The state urgently needs to put more money into projects around the major water catchment areas, if only to address the issue of water storage. ... Regarding the small water cycle, we should work on an anti-leakage program, because lost water currently accounts for one-fifth of our consumption. ... Additionally, campaigns are needed for the economical use of water in households.”
Cities must also draw consequences from the acute drought, demands the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
“Less asphalting and more planting is a logical approach. There are also technical solutions, from buried rainwater tanks to innovative roof constructions. Berlin, for example, has a rainwater agency that has developed a process for turning flat roofs into sponges. Underneath a roof covered with greenery lies a rack that resembles beverage crates, the cavities of which fill with water when it rains before excess water flows into the gutter. ... Stockpiling was a matter of course in the past, as was sparing use of valuable resources. What is certainly clear by now is that the same must be done with rainwater.”
Fighting the drought with investments
For agricultural economist and former state secretary György Raskó, irrigation systems must be modernized, as he writes in Index:
“Will drought and climate change be our undoing? My answer is an emphatic no. Our task is to adapt. We should update the irrigation systems already in place, clean the lowland drainage channels in Alföld and fill them with water year-round, and encourage farmers to invest in irrigation themselves. It might be worth investing several thousand billion [forints] from national budgets for this purpose.”
Farmers are desperate
The consequences of the politicians' failure to take action against the drought are worsening by the day in Slovakia, Pravda warns:
“Anyone travelling through Slovakia will see that irrigated fields are few and far between. The irrigation isn't working not only because there's not enough water, but also because the irrigation pipes and pumping stations have reached the end of their lifespan. ... The situation in some regions is desperate, there will not be enough food for livestock this winter. Fears that ten or so thousand cows will have to be slaughtered in Slovakia by the end of the year are not exaggerated. Yet the government is too busy saving itself and has no interest in managing the country, which is trapped in a closed drought loop.”
Stop wasting water!
El Mundo calls for a nationwide water plan:
“The water reserve in our country has dropped to below 40 percent, its lowest level in 27 years. ... This is a problem that will worsen as time goes on as one of the consequences of climate change. And it requires both the development of strategies by the authorities and increased public awareness. The culture of wasting water needs to be replaced by a culture of using water wisely and responsibly. Measures such as switching to crops that require less water are essential. But so is a national water plan, which is currently conspicuous by its absence.”
It has to hurt first
It is no longer enough to simply call on consumers to cut down their water consumption, warns De Morgen:
“Not only Putin, but also the extreme weather are directly foisting extreme food and energy prices on us. ... The question is always whether it hurts enough to make us do what is needed: active international political cooperation in which fundamental measures are immediately taken to contain this threat as effectively as possible. Like in a war. Financially, this is possible: according to studies, about two to three percent of the world's gross national product would suffice in terms of investment.”
Go further than cosmetic changes!
The business magazine Alternatives Economiques suggests ways in which farming can not just be adapted to climate change but actually contribute to slowing it down:
“Planting trees and hedges protects crops from heat and soils from erosion and facilitates the infiltration of rain. Diversification and crop rotation mitigate the effect of climate variability and improve soil quality. The same applies to reducing (or even eliminating) ploughing and introducing widespread use of catch crops, green manures, local seeds and rainwater harvesting. The combination of certain plants displaces pests, whose numbers are in danger of increasing.”
The industry failed here
Poor management on the part of privatised water companies is to blame for the UK's water shortage, The Times criticises:
“The present drought has further highlighted the industry's failure to invest adequately. .... A fifth of Britain's supplies are being lost to leakages. That is a shocking indictment of the industry's failure to maintain its network. Meanwhile not a single new reservoir has been built in 30 years, despite rising demand for water from a growing population and changing patterns of rainfall arising from climate change. It emerged last week that a desalination plant built by Thames Water to boost supply at times such as these is out of service for maintenance.”
Time for new irrigation
Romania has no choice but to invest in irrigation, says Krónika:
“Romania has had enough time in the past decade to modernise the irrigation systems built 40 to 50 years ago. ... If the government now wakes up and raises the money for irrigation systems from all possible sources, there may still be a chance to save the agricultural sector. ... Otherwise, the proportion of food it has to import, which already stands at 40 to 50 percent, will continue to rise. This will make the already expensive staple foods even more unaffordable.”
Avert the threat of war for water
Europe must finally realise that the threat of desertification is very real, Le Soir appeals:
“The Spanish water management system [which relies on reservoirs] has long been considered exemplary. ... But without rain this strategy is now reaching its limits. This is further proof that in the fight against drought we cannot simply improvise. Everything is interconnected: the health of the earth and its climate is also the guarantee for warding off the specter of desertification. The war for water - for that is the name given to conflicts in many places around the world for control of the blue gold - is not an inevitability. But it is a very real threat that must be averted as soon as possible.”