Nearly half of the area in Europe is 'at risk' of drought, said the European Commission on Monday as the bloc warned that water and heat stress is driving crop yields down from a previously already negative outlook for cereals and other crops.
"The analysis of the evolution and impact of the prolonged drought in the EU shows that a staggering portion of Europe is currently exposed to warning (44 per cent of EU+UK) and alert (9 per cent of EU+UK) drought levels, associated with a soil moisture deficit in combination with vegetation stress," the European Commission said in a statement.
The drought in much of Europe is critical as the winter-spring precipitation deficit was exacerbated by early heatwaves. River discharge in multiple countries is severely affected, with stored water volumes also depleted. Altogether, this may require extraordinary water and energy management measures to be taken in affected countries.
According to the European Commission, the lack of precipitation means soil water content has reduced significantly. This has made it harder for plants to extract water from the soil, leading to widespread stress on vegetation -- namely in the Italian lowlands, in southern, central and western France, in central Germany and eastern Hungary, Portugal and in northern Spain.
"Water and heat stress are driving crop yields down from a previously already negative outlook for cereals and other crops. France, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Italy will need to deal with this reduced crop yield. Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia are also impacted," the European Commission said.
In Italy, the Po River basin is facing the highest level of drought severity. Drought emergency has been declared in five Italian regions and insufficient water availability has led to multiple use restrictions across municipalities. Similar measures to restrict water use have been taken in France.
The situation is also difficult across the Iberian Peninsula. In Spain, volumes of water stored in reservoirs are currently 31 per cent lower than the 10-year average. In Portugal, hydroelectric energy stored in water reservoirs is at half the average of the previous seven years. Both countries are experiencing conditions conducive to wildfires.
"Energy production from run-of-river plants until the beginning of July was lower than the 2015-2021 average for many European countries, notably in Italy (-5039 GWh compared to the average), France (-3930 GWh) and Portugal (-2244 GWh). The same decrease is true for hydropower reservoir levels, affecting countries such as Norway, Spain, Romania, Montenegro and Bulgaria, among others," the European Commission said.
This lack of water is also reducing or suspending hydroelectric and thermoelectric power production operations across countries. In summary, drought conditions and water scarcity are affecting energy production and reducing crop yield.