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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 14°C
DPA/PA Images
Netherlands declares official water shortage as extreme heat imperils Europe's crops
Fears are growing in Europe that extreme drought driven by climate change in the continent’s breadbasket nations will dent stable crop yields.

THE NETHERLANDS HAS declared an official water shortage, as the low-lying “land of water” was hit by Europe’s sweltering summer.

The Dutch government said it was eyeing further measures to conserve water amid a drought, and authorities have already imposed limits on farming and shipping.

The country is protected from the sea by a famed system of dams, dykes and canals but remains particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“The Netherlands is a land of water, but here too our water is precious,” Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Mark Harbers said in a statement.

Parts of the country have already banned farmers from spraying their crops with surface water, in a blow for the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter after the United States.

Some canal locks for shipping have also been suspended, with salt water from the sea creeping back into some rivers as their water levels are so low, Harbers added.

Priority would now be given to ensuring that vital dykes remain safe, and then to drinking water and energy supplies, he said.

The drought was “becoming increasingly visible in nature” and it was “conceivable that the drought will affect more social interests”, Harbers added.

In July the Netherlands recorded its third-highest temperature since records began – 39.4C. A month earlier it suffered its first fatal tornado for 30 years.

European heatwave

As much of Europe bakes in a third heatwave since June, fears are growing that extreme drought driven by climate change in the continent’s breadbasket nations will dent stable crop yields and deepen the cost-of-living crisis.

The European Commission today urged EU member states to re-use treated urban waste water as irrigation on the continent’s parched farms, after France and parts of England saw their driest July on record.

In France, where an intense drought has hammered farmers and prompted widespread limits on freshwater use, there was just 9.7 millimetres of rain last month, Meteo France said.
xinhua-headlines-heatwaves-send-another-climate-warning-highlighting-need-for-green-actions Xinhua News Agency / PA Images A person covers themselves during baking heat in Paris Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images
That was 84 percent down on the average levels seen for July between 1991 and 2022, making it the driest month since March 1961, the agency added.

Britain’s Met Office this week said much of southern and eastern England had their driest July on record.
climate-uk-heat-wave Matt Dunham / PA A policeman gives water to a British soldier wearing a traditional bearskin hat during a heatwave in the UK last month Matt Dunham / PA / PA
Some water providers have already announced restrictions affecting millions of people, and fruit and vegetable producers have announced several crop losses such as beans and berries.

Britain’s inflation surged to a 40-year high in June on rising fuel and food prices.

In Spain, already parched under a prolonged hot spell, temperatures will breach 40C in several areas this week.

The heat is worsening water shortages that have dogged Spanish agriculture since last winter, with local restrictions on water usage in the most affected regions.

The government said this week that Spain’s reservoirs are at just 40.4 percent capacity.
spain-heatwave-wildfires Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Firefighters tackling a blaze in Cebreros, Castilla y Lyon, Spain, last month Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images
Juan Carlos Hervas, from the COAG farmers’ union, told AFP that Spains olive harvest from unirrigated land will come in at less than 20 percent of the average of the last five years.

Spain supplies nearly half the world’s olive oil.

© AFP 2022

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