MILAN — Two thousand years ago, Rome could pride itself on having the world’s most advanced aqueducts, exporting the technology throughout Europe and the Middle East. Today, the city is literally running out of water — thanks in part to its crumbling infrastructure.
One-third of the city’s residents are set to have their water supply cut off for eight hours every day, possibly beginning as early as Friday; different neighborhoods will take turns in sharing the burden. It’s an unprecedented move for a major Italian city, said Giampaolo Attanasio, a public infrastructure expert at the advisory firm Ernst & Young. But it may soon be routine.
“Rome could be just the beginning. If the situation doesn’t improve, other large cities will have to ration water as well,” Attanasio said in a telephone interview. “Small towns already have.”
The main culprit, experts say, is climate change. In 2017, Italy experienced its second-hottest spring in the past 200 years, according to a report by Italy’s Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. Spring rainfall decreased by 50 percent compared with the seasonal average, the same report said, and nearby Lake Bracciano, from which the city gets part of its water supply, is drying up at an alarming rate: The water level has fallen by 1 centimeter every single day.
Under current conditions, the lake can no longer afford to send its water to Rome. Without that supply, ACEA, Rome’s water company, says it will no longer be able to provide residents with water 24 hours a day.
“The situation is unbelievable,” said Nicola Zingaretti, the governor of the region in which Rome sits, during an interview on Italian TV. “I’d like to invite Donald Trump here [in Bracciano] to show him what happens when one doesn’t respect climate…