Italy’s Lake Garda sinks to historically low values ​​after heat wave

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Italy’s worst drought in decades has caused its largest body of water, Lake Garda, to drop to near-historically low levels, exposing plumes of underwater rock and raising water temperatures close to those seen in the Caribbean Sea.

Tourists who flocked to the popular resort town this weekend were greeted with an odd sight upon arrival.

Instead of being greeted by the beautiful natural shoreline of Lake Garda, holidaymakers instead found an extensive strip of bleached rock encircling Sirmione’s southern peninsula.

“We came last year, we liked it, and we came back this year,” said tourist Beatrice Masi as she sat on the rocks.

“We noticed that the landscape had changed a lot. We were a bit shocked when we arrived because we had our usual walk and the water wasn’t there.’

Northern Italy has been battered by intense heatwaves for months, with a total lack of rain and up to 70% less snowfall in winter, causing major rivers like the Po, which flows through much of Italy’s agricultural heartland, to dry up almost entirely.

The drying up of the Po, Italy’s longest river, has already caused billions of dollars in losses to farmers who normally depend on it to irrigate fields and paddy fields.

To make up for the losses, Italian authorities allowed reserves to be drained from nearby Lake Garda to drain into local rivers – 70 cubic meters (2,472 cu ft) of water per second.

A view of the Sirmione peninsula on Lake Garda, Italy, Friday August 12, 2022. Lake Garda's water level has dropped critically following a severe drought, causing rocks to emerge around the Sirmione peninsula. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

A view of the Sirmione peninsula on Lake Garda (Image: AP)

A woman takes a selfie on the Sirmione peninsula on Lake Garda, Italy, Friday, August 12, 2022. Lake Garda's water level has dropped critically following a severe drought, causing rocks to emerge around the Sirmione peninsula. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

A woman takes a selfie on Lake Garda’s Sirmione peninsula after water levels dropped to their lowest level in decades (Image: AP)

People look out over the lake from the Sirmione peninsula on Lake Garda, Italy, on Friday August 12, 2022. Lake Garda's water level has dropped critically after a severe drought, causing rocks to appear around the Sirmione peninsula. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Lake Garda’s water reserves have been drained to support the nearby river after months of drought (Image: AP)

But in late July, after the lake’s water level fell near the record lows of 2003 and 2007, the amount of water exported was reduced to protect the lake and the financially important tourism that comes with it.

Although the country has experienced some rainfall in recent months, it has not been enough to recoup losses, leading to the decision.

Garda Mayor Davide Bedinelli said he had to protect both farmers and the tourism industry, insisting that despite cancellations by German tourists during Italy’s last heatwave in July, the summer tourist season was going better than expected.

“Drought is a fact we will have to deal with this year, but the tourist season is not in danger,” Bendinelli wrote in a July 20 Facebook post.

He confirmed that the lake was losing two centimeters (0.78 inches) of water daily.

People sunbathe on the Sirmione peninsula on Lake Garda, Italy, Friday, August 12, 2022. Lake Garda's water level has fallen critically following a severe drought, causing rocks to emerge around the Sirmione peninsula. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Lake Garda’s water level has dropped critically following severe droughts, causing rocks to emerge around the Sirmione peninsula (Image: AP)

The temperature of the lake has also risen. On Friday, the waters of Lake Garda were nearly 26C, several degrees warmer than the average August temperature of 22C and approaching the Caribbean Sea’s average of about 27C.

For Mario Treccani, who owns a beach concession with lounge chairs and umbrellas on the lake shore, the lake’s extended shoreline means fewer people are renting his chairs as there are now plenty of rocks for sunbathing.

“The lake is usually a meter or more than a meter higher,” he said of the rocks.

Pointing to a small wall that normally blocks water from the beach chairs, he recalled that on windy days, waves from the lake sometimes lapped at tourists.

No longer.

“It’s a little sad. In the past, you could hear the sound of the waves breaking here. You can’t hear anything now,’ he said.

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/08/13/italys-lake-garda-sinks-to-historically-low-levels-following-heatwave-17177581/ Italy's Lake Garda sinks to historically low values ​​after heat wave

Justin Scacco

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