Italy wastes enough water for 43 million people a year - can it fix its leaky pipes?

Old infrastructure in Italy meant that 42 per cent of drinking water was lost last year
Old infrastructure in Italy meant that 42 per cent of drinking water was lost last year Copyright Canva
By Rosie Frost with EBU
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Much of Italy’s water distribution network is more than 30 years old.


Italy wastes enough water in a year to meet the needs of 43 million people, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics.

Old infrastructure meant that 42 per cent of drinking water was lost last year - a new record. Around a quarter of the country’s networks are over 50 years old and 60 per cent have been in place for longer than 30 years.

It’s a lot of water to lose for a country that has been is going through an extended drought.

Could Italians be wasting water without knowing it?

The price of drinking water in Italy is among the lowest in Europe with a cubic meter costing €2 - half of what it is in France - and supply wasn’t an issue in the past. In recent years, however, Italians have been faced with water restrictions and many have made efforts to conserve the short supply.

“When I brush my teeth I turn off the water. I pay attention to other small details, I prefer the shower to the tub,” says one Italian citizen.

But, despite efforts to save water, people may be using a lot more than they think. On average, Europeans consume 125 litres of water a day. Thanks to leaky pipes, Italians consume 236 litres.

It isn’t just leaks that are a problem either. On June 1, the EU said it had decided to sue Italy for failing to treat its urban wastewater properly.

Can Italy solve its water wastage problem?

The biggest problems are in the south but water is an issue countrywide. In the north, companies in the Friuli region have decided to come together to invest in the network.

Smart meters are being installed to prevent consumer wastage and water distribution is being digitised to predict where problems could occur.

"All seven companies in the Friuli Venezia-Giulia region that manage the distribution and supply of water, organised to collaborate together,” explains Salvatore Benigno, President CAFC Water Company.

“We won PNRR funds - that is European funding - to make the water network more efficient. The goal is to reduce network losses by about 13 per cent in a few years because by 2026 the whole project must be completed.”

In total, Italy is looking to spend €4 billion of European funds on building 25,000km of water distribution networks to solve its water shortage problems.

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