SIRMIONE Italy ( Associated Press) — Italy’s worst drought in decades has reduced the country’s largest Lake Garda to the lowest level on record. Large swathes of submerged reefs have already appeared, and the water temperature is approaching that of the Caribbean Sea.
Tourists arriving at this busy northern destination at the start of a long weekend of traditional summer were faced with a radically different scenario from previous years. A long strip of bleached rocks extends away from the normal shore, in a yellow halo around the Sirmone Peninsula, contrasting with the green color of the water and the trees on the shore.
“We came last year, we liked it and we are back this year,” said tourist Beatrice Massey, sitting on the rocks. “We got a very changed scenario. When we got there, we were a little shocked, because we were walking on the shore and there was no water.”
Northern Italy has not received any significant rainfall for months, and snow has decreased by 70% this year, drying up important rivers such as the Po, which crisscross the country’s agricultural and industrial region. Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain and other European countries are facing droughts this summer that have affected agriculture and shipping and forced authorities to limit water consumption.
The state of Po, Italy’s longest river, has lost billions of euros to farmers, who usually use it to irrigate fields and rice paddies.
In compensation, the authorities allowed a greater flow of water from the Garda into the rivers: 70 cubic meters (2,472 cubic feet) of water per second. But at the end of July he cut that flow to protect the lake and the substantial funding that tourism would bring in.
With the rivers turning 45 cubic meters (1,589 cubic feet) of water per second, the lake level was only 32 centimeters (12.6 in) above the water level, roughly the historically low levels of 2003 and 2007.
The mayor of Garda, David Bedinelli, said he must protect both agriculture and tourism. He assured that the tourist season was better than expected, despite the cancellations, mainly by German tourists, during the heat wave in late July.
“Drought is a reality we will have to face this year, but the tourist season is not in jeopardy,” Bendinelli wrote on Facebook.
They confirmed that the lake was losing two centimeters (0.78 in) of water daily.
Meanwhile, water temperatures were above average for August, according to seatemperature.org. It was 26 °C (78 Fahrenheit) on Friday and swelled to close to 27 °C (80 °F) in the Caribbean.