Italy's water crisis 'to hit mainland'

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The Independent Online

A water crisis that has threatened this year's harvest in Sicily could spread to mainland Italy, where the amount of water currently available to farmers may be halved by 2005.

A water crisis that has threatened this year's harvest in Sicily could spread to mainland Italy, where the amount of water currently available to farmers may be halved by 2005.

New figures presented to a scientific conference in Rome reveal that 30 per cent of Italians do not have a regular or sufficient water supply in their homes, and 20 per cent use water that fails to meet standards recommended by the World Health Organisation.

In Sicily yesterday 500 farmers demonstrated in the streets of Partinico, 20 miles from Palermo, against water shortages. Droughts are not unusual on the island, but there have been claims that money destined for water systems has gone to the Mafia.

Italy consumes 50 billion cubic metres of water every year – one of the highest per capita rates in the world. Farmers are said to use by far the most water. Scientists warn that the shortages will be much worse by 2005.

Poorly-built reservoirs, leaking pipes and faulty aqueducts have added to the problem of lower rainfall levels. One idea is to recycle domestic water for agricultural use.

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