(Photo from ANSA) 

ROME – Millions of Italians risk having their tap water cut off in the coming months because of the severe drought Italy is experiencing, especially in northern regions, the head of the ANBI water-resource consortium said on Thursday.

"According to the data we have available, it is reasonable to believe that the tap water of at least three and a half million Italians cannot be taken for granted," said ANBI President Francesco Vincenzi.

He referred to data by the National Research Council (CNR), to which between 6 percent and 15 percent of the Italian population are living in areas exposed to severe or extreme drought.

Low levels of rain and snowfall this winter has exacerbated an already difficult situation after the severe drought and long series of heat waves Italy endured last summer hit its water resources badly, causing huge problems for agriculture.

ANBI said the level of the Po, Italy's biggest river, was at a record low.

It said rivers and lakes in central Italy were also under extreme stress.

ANBI's warning comes after Environmental association Legambiente on Monday sounded the alarm about the drought.

Citing figures from the CIMA Research Foundation, it said the Italian Alps currently have a snow-water-equivalent deficit of 53 percent compared to the average of the last 10 years.

This is worrying as snow is an important source of water in spring and summer when, by melting, it ensures water supplies in the months it is most needed.

This deficit is due to reduced precipitation levels this winter, combined with mild winter temperatures that have brought forward the melting of snow on the mountains.

Alpine snow is Italy's most important water reserve, since it supplies the Po River basin.

Scientists say that extreme weather events like heat waves, supercharged storms, flooding and droughts are becoming more frequent and more intense because of climate change caused by human greenhouse-gas emissions. (ANSA)