Italy's drought-hit farmers face sea water threat

STORY: As Italy experiences its worst drought in decades, dried out crops aren’t the only threat to farmers.

Salt water from the Adriatic Sea is now flowing back into the Po, the country's longest river.

The flow of sea water into the Po makes irrigation almost impossible as it risks burning the already parched crops.

Giancarlo Mantovani is the director of ‘Reclaiming the Po’, who are fighting to protect the river.

"If there is no rain in the next 10 or 15 days, the crops that are not yet lost will be gone. At this stage, we are progressively losing the harvest. The longer the situation lasts, the worse the problem gets and the more the sown areas fail to produce.”

The Po runs for more than 403 miles across from west to east, across the north of the country, a region which accounts for around a third of the country's agricultural output.

The river is suffering the effects of a lack of winter snow compounded by a baking early summer.

Large areas of sandbanks lie exposed on stretches of the river as the water levels drop and its flow slows, making it easier for sea water to encroach.

These fields in Porto Tolle, near the Po delta, once contained an abundance of soy plants.

Now they are dried up and damaged.

Federica Vidali works here as an agricultural entrepreneur.

She says the lack of rain is starting to concern her.

"I am trying to be optimistic but at the moment when it doesn't rain and you see the whole year of work lost, you become afraid, you are sad and you try to be positive."

As part of efforts for some respite from the crisis, tractors have been set up to pump water from River Po into canals in Isola Pescaroli, a small town in the province of Cremona, which can then water the crops.

But in recent weeks the water levels dropped so drastically that the water lifting system was blocked.

And it’s not just the Po which is suffering.

Italy’s northern lakes are already below, or close to record lows.

And the level of natural reservoirs in the center of the country are also plunging.

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