July 14, 2024

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The island that distributes water coupons and calls for over-tourism

The island that distributes water coupons and calls for over-tourism

The journalistic cliché may refer to the “bells” that ring constantly from our western borders. Italyspecifically from its island. SicilyWhich was called “Greater Greece”. But the reality went beyond the bells and whistles, and we have to point out complete hoaxes. The water scarcity observed in Sicily, the large Italian island located at the same latitude as the Peloponnese and several Cycladic islands, has already reached the point of desertification.

In Agrigento, a tourist resort in Italy located on the southwestern side of the island, the problem is huge. Small hotels and guest houses in the city and coastal villages are forced to turn away tourists. They do not have enough water to ensure that you can flush the toilet (!) or shower after a bath without fear.

Sicily began imposing water restrictions in February, when the region declared a state of emergency amid a relentless drought. But leaks caused by aging infrastructure have exacerbated shortages that have hurt tourism and holidaymakers. agriculturetwo sectors crucial to the island’s economy.

Water rationing now applies to more than a million people in 93 communities. Some have to cut their water consumption by up to 45%. That means taps run dry on schedule and the supply is cut off completely overnight in most places.

On TripAdvisor and other travel forums, tourists are wondering whether the affected areas of Sicily are worth visiting. Hotels are warning customers of potential shortages and helping guests rebook elsewhere on the island and in mainland Italy, where restrictions are less severe. In many hotels, hoteliers have installed filters in bathrooms and sinks to save as much water as possible.

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Italy does not give money

Sicily’s regional government has asked Rome for support to import water from mainland Italy, but there is no concrete plan yet to help the island. Italy’s tourism ministry has stressed that Sicily should try to extend its tourist season and avoid focusing solely on the summer, when water problems are most acute. It is sticking its head in the sand.

In 2023, the island was hit by severe fires that forced tourists to evacuate or postpone their visits. Now, water shortages caused by drought are another concern. Human-caused climate change is warming Europe faster than any other continent, and Sicily is at the heart of this change. It was here that the European temperature record was broken in August 2023, when the city of Syracuse reached 48.8 degrees Celsius. About 20 percent of the water that falls on the island each year falls during the winter.

Hotels are required to have a certain amount of water reserves in relation to their capacity. However, smaller establishments, including family hotels and bed and breakfasts, often do not have the means to store enough to meet demand. If they are in a residential building, they are subject to the strict quotas that apply to residents.

Plans exist, but they are not immediately executable. Sicily’s regional government office pointed to a study outlining Italian government plans to drill new wells, build more pipelines and bring old desalination plants back online. But Sicily has not received enough money from Rome to carry out its plans.

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The situation is equally dire for farmers. Animals can no longer drink from natural water wells or small ponds, as they have dried up. The drought also means there is little grass for grazing. The lack of water means farmers face a devastating choice: either kill their herds or let them die of hunger or dehydration.

Citrus growers are also seeing the famous Sicilian oranges, popular throughout Italy and Europe, wither on their trees for lack of water. Reservoirs used for irrigation around Mount Etna, where the oranges are grown, now hold about half the usual amount of water. Production is expected to fall by more than 25% if summer rains do not come, a rare eventuality according to meteorological data.

** With information from CNN

**Photography: Peggy Dadaki