Europe's Voice of Tourism

Drought in Europe

A Comprehensive Cost Analysis of Water Scarcity and Its Impacts on Tourism and Agriculture

Alarm in Various European Regions: Scarcity of Rain and Depleting Reservoirs

The European Drought Observatory (EDO) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) highlight several countries that are particularly vulnerable to drought conditions. Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Greece, and Italy are among the most affected, experiencing substantial declines in water levels, reduced crop yields, and increased wildfire risks.

  1. Spain
    • Impact: Spain has seen a significant reduction in water availability, with reservoirs in Andalusia and Murcia operating at less than 40% capacity. The drought has severely impacted olive oil and citrus production, with expected declines of up to 30%.
    • Data: The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture reported that water levels in key reservoirs are 30% below the average of the last decade.
    • Agricultural Production: Olive oil production is projected to decrease by 30%, and citrus fruits by 25%. The cereal harvest is expected to fall by 20%, with specific regions like Castilla-La Mancha seeing up to a 40% reduction in wheat yields.
    • Additional Data: Spain’s total agricultural water demand has increased by 10% due to the drought, putting further strain on limited water resources.
    • Tourism Impact: The drought has affected the water supply to major tourist destinations, leading to restrictions and affecting the hospitality industry. Coastal areas like Costa del Sol have reported a 15% drop in tourist numbers due to water shortages and increased temperatures.
  2. Portugal
    • Impact: In Alentejo, reservoir levels have dropped by nearly 50%, leading to reduced water supply for agriculture and domestic use. Cereal production has seen a decline of approximately 25%.
    • Data: According to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), rainfall levels are 35% below the long-term average.
    • Agricultural Production: Cereal yields are expected to drop by 25%, with similar impacts on fruit and vegetable production. The vineyard yield is projected to fall by 20%, affecting the wine industry.
    • Additional Data: Portugal’s water usage for agriculture has increased by 15%, further depleting the already scarce water resources.
    • Tourism Impact: Tourism in regions like Algarve has been impacted, with a 10% decrease in bookings due to water rationing and the decline in natural attractions like river tours and green landscapes. Hotels have had to implement water-saving measures, affecting guest experiences.
  3. France
    • Impact: Southeastern France is experiencing drought conditions, with significant reductions in water availability affecting vineyards and cereal crops. Water restrictions have been imposed in several departments.
    • Data: Météo-France reports that precipitation levels in the Rhône-Alpes region are 40% below the seasonal average, with river flows at record lows.
    • Agricultural Production: Vineyard yields are projected to fall by 20%, while cereal production might decrease by 15%. Additionally, vegetable production in regions like Provence is expected to drop by 25%.
    • Additional Data: France’s hydropower production has decreased by 12% due to lower water levels in reservoirs, impacting energy supply.
    • Tourism Impact: The tourism industry, especially in Provence and Côte d’Azur, has seen a 12% decline in visitor numbers. The reduction in water-based activities such as river cruises on the Rhône and the impact on wine tourism due to reduced vineyard productivity have contributed to this decline.
  4. Germany
    • Impact: Eastern and central Germany faces severe drought, impacting cereal and potato crops. The River Elbe’s water level has dropped to historic lows, affecting shipping and hydropower.
    • Data: The German Weather Service (DWD) indicates that soil moisture levels are 30% below the normal range for this time of year.
    • Agricultural Production: Cereal yields could decline by 20%, and potato production by 25%. The fruit harvest in regions like Brandenburg is expected to decrease by 20%.
    • Additional Data: Germany’s inland water transport has seen a 15% reduction in capacity due to low river levels, affecting trade and commerce.
    • Tourism Impact: Low water levels in rivers like the Elbe and Rhine have disrupted river cruises, leading to a 10% drop in bookings. Additionally, reduced water availability in tourist destinations has led to a decline in eco-tourism and outdoor activities.
  5. Greece
    • Impact: Greek islands and the southern mainland are suffering from water shortages, with impacts on agriculture and tourism. In Crete, water reservoirs are at 25% capacity.
    • Data: The Hellenic National Meteorological Service (HNMS) reports a 45% reduction in annual rainfall compared to the long-term average.
    • Agricultural Production: Olive oil production is expected to decrease by 35%, and vegetable yields by 30%. The grape harvest for wine production is projected to fall by 25%.
    • Additional Data: Greece’s tourism sector has been impacted, with some regions reporting a 10% decline in visitors due to water shortages and restrictions.
    • Tourism Impact: Popular islands such as Crete and Mykonos have experienced a 10-15% drop in tourist arrivals, as water shortages lead to service disruptions in hotels and restaurants. Water rationing and the deterioration of natural attractions have further discouraged visitors.
  6. Italy
    • Impact: Italy is experiencing an unprecedented drought, with severe consequences across various regions, particularly in the south. The Italian agricultural sector is significantly affected, with Coldiretti reporting that 2023 saw a 20% reduction in water availability, equating to a loss of 1 litre of water out of every 5. This has resulted in an 18% decline in water resources, critically impacting crops and livestock.
    • Data: According to Coldiretti, water reservoirs in Sicily are nearly empty, with a 68% deficit and around 670 million cubic meters of water missing.
    • Agricultural Production: Wheat yields in Sicily have dropped by up to 70% in the most affected areas. Puglia faces a 20-30% reduction in grain harvest, particularly affecting Foggia province. Sardinia is struggling with decreased cereal, fruit, and vegetable crops.
    • Additional Data: Italy’s olive oil production is expected to decline by 30%, and overall cereal production is projected to decrease by 20%.
    • Tourism Impact: Tourism in southern Italy is suffering, with water shortages leading to restrictions that deter visitors. Coastal and rural areas, dependent on both agriculture and tourism, face compounded economic challenges. In Sardinia, the drought has severely impacted water availability, leading to a decline in tourism activities like river tours and green landscapes. Popular tourist destinations have reported a 10-15% drop in bookings due to water rationing and increased temperatures during peak season.

Consequences of Drought

The ongoing drought has several severe consequences for Europe:

  • Agricultural Decline: Significant reductions in crop yields, particularly for cereals, fruits, and vegetables. For example, Spain’s olive oil production is expected to drop by 30%, while Portugal’s cereal output could decline by 25%.
  • Water Supply Issues: Many regions face water supply shortages, leading to restrictions and the need for alternative water sources like desalination in Spain and water trucking in Greece.
  • Economic Impact: The agricultural sector, a vital part of many European economies, is experiencing financial strain due to reduced yields and increased irrigation costs. The total economic loss in agriculture across Europe is estimated to be in the billions of euros.
  • Environmental Impact: Lower water levels in rivers and reservoirs are affecting aquatic ecosystems and increasing the risk of wildfires. In Spain and Portugal, the area affected by wildfires has increased by 20% compared to previous years.
  • Tourism Impact: Tourism-dependent economies are facing declines in visitor numbers due to water shortages, reduced natural attractions, and service disruptions. The overall economic loss in the tourism sector across Europe is projected to be substantial, with millions of euros in lost revenue.

Measures and Mitigation Efforts

Countries across Europe are implementing various measures to combat the drought:

  • Spain: Investment in desalination plants and improved irrigation techniques. The government has allocated €1 billion for water infrastructure projects.
  • Portugal: Enhanced water management practices and storage infrastructure development. Emergency funding of €500 million has been directed towards drought relief.
  • France: Promotion of drought-resistant crops and improved forest management. Subsidies for farmers adopting sustainable practices amount to €700 million.
  • Germany: Support for farmers with drought-resistant crop varieties and improved irrigation systems. The government has introduced a €600 million aid package for affected farmers.
  • Greece: Construction of new reservoirs and promotion of water conservation practices. Greece has earmarked €400 million for water infrastructure and drought mitigation projects.
  • Italy: Investment in water-saving technologies and improved irrigation infrastructure. The Italian government has announced a €1.5 billion package to support affected farmers and improve water management systems. Emergency measures include water rationing and the construction of new reservoirs in critical areas.


The drought in Europe is a pressing issue that requires immediate and coordinated action. With climate change exacerbating the frequency and intensity of droughts, European countries must invest in sustainable water management practices, support affected agricultural sectors, and implement policies to mitigate the impacts on tourism and local economies. The data highlights the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address water scarcity and ensure the resilience of Europe’s agriculture and tourism industries in the face of growing environmental challenges.