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Italy’s Drought Worsens as Salty Sea Creeps Further Into Vital River

The lack of rain has already become a disaster for crops in northern Italy and now the Adriatic sea is raising the salinity of the region’s main irrigation source.

The exposed bed of the Po river in Boretto, Italy on June 17.

The exposed bed of the Po river in Boretto, Italy on June 17.

Photographer: Francesca Volpi/Bloomberg

Recent rain in Northern Italy has done little for the region’s worst drought in 70 years. At least 30% of this year’s rice crop has already been lost, and now the region’s irrigation sources are being threatened by the salty Adriatic sea, which has entered a record 30.6 kilometers (19 miles) into the Po river. 

The Po river flows for 652 kilometers from west to east in northern Italy, a region that accounts for about 30% of the country’s agricultural production. Large swaths of the river bed are currently visible as the river’s levels are 80% lower than normal. The drought, which is unusual for June, follows four months of little rain and snowmelt feeding the river. It’s also happening during an unprecedented heat wave in Europe.