The Holy See has switched off most of the 100 fountains in Vatican City - both the external ones located in St Peter's Square, and the interior fountains including those in the Vatican Gardens, in an effort to save water, as Italy struggles with a severe drought. The move is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis in his Encyclical on the environment, Laudate Si. Forecasters say Italy had one of its driest springs in 60 years and rainfalls in some parts of the country have been 80 per cent below normal. Rome had just 26 days of rain in the first six months of this year.
The drought is a disaster for agriculture. A state of emergency was earlier declared in two northern provinces.The prolonged drought has hit two-thirds of farmland and has already cost Italian agriculture some £1.8billion. Dairy farmers, wine grapes and olive production among the worst hit. Reports say that milk production has fallen in several areas as cows suffer in the heat.
There have also been a number of wildfires in southern Italy, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people as firefighters battled the blazes - using gallons of precious water.
At least 10 Italian regions are preparing requests to the agriculture ministry for a state of natural declared to be declared.
The governor of the Lazio region, Nicola Zingaretti, which includes Rome, has ordered no more water to be drawn from Lake Bracciano, which supplies some parts of the Italian capital, because the decreasing water levels pose a danger to the lake’s aquatic life.
As the soaring temperatures continue and the country prays for rain, Romans could well see water rationing as early as this week. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told Reuters it was the first time anyone could remember this happening. "This decision is very much in line with the Pope's thinking on ecology: you can't waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice," he said.
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