|Dry land emerges from the shallow waters of the Po river, under the Ponte della Becca, near Pavia, Italy (June 2005)|
As Europe swelters in its latest summer heat wave, the World Wildlife Fund is warning that building more reservoirs and water storage dams will not solve the continent's water shortage. The global conservation organization says government and citizens need to wake up to the absolute need to use the scarce water supplies more efficiently.
Italy, like many other countries in Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean, is suffering a summer heat wave. The persistent hot weather and little rainfall has raised the specter of serious drought. Water supplies are dwindling.
The WWF has expressed concern because, it says, governments are not doing enough to deal with a problem that will only get worse in time.
Many countries are planning to build new reservoirs to address the water shortages, but WWF Dams Initiative leader Ute Collier says that is not the solution. She says there is no shortage of dams and reservoirs in Europe.
"We have hundreds in every country. The problem we have though is that we use water incredibly inefficiently," she said. "If you look at leakage rates in urban areas, whether it is Rome, or whether its London, whether its Madrid, 30 percent of the water just leaks out of the pipes. Agriculture, 40 percent of the water just evaporates because of the very, very inefficient systems."
A recent report by the European Environment Agency says Italian cities on average waste 30 percent of their water. Other Mediterranean countries face a similar problem and authorities have started urging consumers to cut back on water usage.
In some cases, bans have been imposed on hosepipes and sprinklers, and on filling swimming pools or washing cars. The mayor of London has told citizens to flush their toilets less frequently.
Dr. Collier says governments and water companies need to seriously address the issue. She cited one country whose example should be followed.
"If you look at Israel for example, which is a country again in the Mediterranean, but terribly short of water, they have addressed the issue," she said. "They re-use urban waste water in agriculture for example. It is still a tight situation, but they know how to save water. That is what we need in Europe. It is time to wake up."
She says progress must be made and action plans and funding are needed to improve water efficiency. Rainfall patterns are changing and affected countries are likely to continue to see higher temperatures and more drought. She adds that as the climate continues to be affected there will be increasing pressure on water supplies, particularly in the summer months.