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Dr. Marco Arcieri
Secretary General
Comitato Nazionale Italiano ICID (ITAL-ICID)
C/o Ministero del l'Agricultura e delle Foreste
Via XX Settembre
20 ' 00187 ' Rome

Tel : +39 06 466 56053, +39 06-488 4728
Email : info@italicid.it, marco.arcieri@regione.basilicata.it
Website : http://www.italicid.it


Dr. Gabriella Zanferrari
Italian National Committee, ICID (ITAL-ICID)
Address as per Sr.No.1


Prof. Lucio Ubertini
Vice President Hon., ICID
Via Madonna Alta 126
Perugia 06128

Tel : +39 075 5014411
Mob : +39 348 0826200
Email : Lucio.Ubertini@uniroma1.it


Dr. Graziano Ghinassi
Department of Agriculture and Forestry Economy
Engineering, Science and Technologies
University of Firenze

Email : graziano.ghinassi@unifi.it

Associate Editor - EB-JOUR ; Member - WG-DROUGHT, PCTA, WG-SON-FARM


Prof. Daniele de Wrachien
Department of Agricultural Engineering State University of Milan
Via Celoria 2, 20133, Milano

Tel : +39 270630512
Fax : +39 270631451
Email : Daniele.DeWrachien@unimi.it

Associate Editor - EB-JOUR


Dr. Marco Arcieri
Secretary General
Comitato Nazionale Italiano ICID (ITAL-ICID)
See address as above

Email : marco.arcieri@regione.basilicata.it



Mr. Antonio Linoli
c/o Comitato Nazionale Italiano ICID (ITAL-ICID)

Email : info@italicid.it, marco.arcieri@regione.basilicata.it

Member - WG-HIST

Links of Interest
ICID Strategy for Implementing Sector Vision - Water for Food and Rural Development and Country Position Papers, 2000

ICID – Irrigation & Drainage in the World – A Global Review

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Physiography and People

Italy, with a surface area of 301,341 km2, is situated in Southern Europe at a central location in the Mediterranean basin with a high latitudinal extension, and linked to central Europe through the Alps mountains and also to the Sicily isle lying in front of the African coast. The country is bordered by France in North East, by Swtizerland and Austria in North and by Slovenia in North East.

The country has four main land regions with a wide physiographical variation as; the North the Alps mountains chain, extending from the west to east (including the highest peak in Europe: Monte Bianco); the South of the Alps, the lowland of the large basin of the Po river and its 141 tributary streams of first and second order; the peninsula, 800 km long, including the central Apennine mountains running from North to South and the coastline (7,500 km long) bordering the Adriatic sea in the East, Ionio sea in the South-East and Tyrrenian sea in the West; the two wide isles Sicily and Sardinia located respectively at the South and the West of the peninsula.

The Alps act as a protection barrier against the cold wind blowing from the North, giving rise to a climatic pattern different from that of Central Europe.

Rome, is the largest city situated in the central part of the country. The official language is the Italian.

The population of the Country is 57,680,900 with a density of 190 inhabitants per km2; the population growth over the last few years has been almost entirely the results of foreign immigration, while the size of the Italian population has decreased. The population engaged in agriculture is decreasing year by year.

The urbanisation process is progressively absorbing land in Italy. There is a tendency for the total amount of unproductive land to be absorbed further by the spread of built-up areas and infrastructure. The areas of agricultural land, on the other hand, has decreased by about 2.7 million hectares (-15.3%) since 1970 (almost 10% of national territory). Many anthropic factors such as deforestation, fires, careless agricultural activities along the slopes, development of settlements and road network along the slope increases the soil erosion risk.

Out of a total land surface area of about 30 million hectares, only 23% is lowland in the North, 18% in the South and 9% in Central Italy. As a whole, Italy is still geologically a relatively new land, nearly all its territory has emerged from the more recent orogenetic upheaval (the alpine upheaval), whose movements, although weaker, spread into the axis of the Central and Southern Apennines.

The GNP was 350,220 billions of dollars. The ratio, country deficit/GNP is decreasing by 2.7% and the inflation has decreased to 1.5%. The per capita GDP is $20,170.

There are four major river basins in Italy: Po, Tevere, Adige, Arnb, etc. In the North East of the country, the rivers Adige, Brenta, Piave, Tagliamento and Isonzo from the Alps flow into the Adriatic sea. From the Central Apennines, the flows of the rivers Reno, Metauro, Tronto reach the Adriatic sea while those of the Arno, Tevere, Volturno, Garigliano, Sele discharge into the Tyrrhenian sea.

From Southern Apennines, the streams Pescara, Sangro, Biferno, Fortore and Ofanto are flow into the Adriatic sea while Bradano, Basento, Agri reach into the Ionic sea.

In the Sicily isle, the Alcantara river is reaches the Ionic sea while in the Sardinia isle the Flumendosa river flows from the northern region into the Tyrrhenian sea.


The climate varies widely among the several Italian regions, characterised by extremely variable conditions across more than 10 degrees of latitude between the Alps and Mediterranean Sea and ranging; semi-arid Southern area (precipitation ranging over 450-600 mm/year and average temperature of 18oC), sub-humid conditions (500-800 mm/year and 15oC) in the Northern plain, and humid condition (800-1530 mm/year and 13oC) on the Alps and Apennine mountains.

A wide range of climate results in differences in water resources availability. Southern areas of the peninsula, such as Apulia, as well as isles of Sicily, Sardinia and some regions in the Centre-North are sometimes subject to serious shortages of water supply for various sues and in particular for drinking purposes. Other Southern coastline areas located in the Campanian - Lucanian areas normally receive adequate amount of rainfall which in conjunction with carbonate aquifers, provides sufficient water availability.

Italian climate is characterised by a spatial highly variable precipitation, concentrated over short periods of the year (mainly spring and autumn, by a large inter-annual variability and by frequent extreme events such as floods and droughts).

Rainfall regime greatly depends on the orography and latitude, more than 1000 mm/year well distributed over the year, are recorded in northern plain - and up to 3000 mm/year on the Alps - whereas less than 400 mm/year, mainly concentrated in autumn-winter, are recorded in Southern regions.

Due to the particular position of the peninsula, the Italian climate appears very responsive to the influences of both global changes and human action. Significant aspects of the global and regional changes are: increase of the sea level; reduction of glaciated areas; increase of climate variability; increase of evaporation process; extension of the urban heat isles: growing frequency of very concentrated rainfall episodes. All these conditions increase the risk of land degradation, salinisation and deterioration of soil structure favouring frequent slope processes - from superficial erosion to mass movement - with heavy repercussion on flood phenomena in the valley and plain areas. The large diffusion of marked geomorphologic and hydrologic hazards (earthquakes, volcanic activity in central and southern parts of the peninsula) is essentially tied to the geologic and geomorphologic complexity of the territory.


Out of the total surface area, almost two thirds (22 millions hectares) is farm land with 68% of this (15 million hectares) in use for agricultural purposes. Italy is characterised by variations in land use across the areas considered with an evolution that has reflected, since ancient times, the natural distribution of water and which has in itself had a great impact on water resources. The main urban agglomerations in the central and northern parts of the country are located beside, or in the vicinity of rivers which supply a range of needs including agriculture, handicraft and sometimes transportation. The increase in the population and the need to protect riverside settlements has necessitated the construction of large hydraulic works for flood control river training and diversion, and large reclamation schemes that still pose challenge to the natural regime of water.

In southern regions and in the larger islands the shortage of surface water has led to the compulsory development of concentrated dwelling areas with high population density. These are located so as to gain the best possible advantage from local springs and rely on the supply of rainwater stored in domestic sumps.

Since the end of the Second World War Italy has undergone a substantial economic transformation involving the growth of the industrial sector to the detriment of agriculture and favouring a further increase in the size of large urban agglomerations. In particular the proportion of employment in the agricultural sector decreased from 45% of the total labour force in 1951 to 19% in 1971 while that of the industrial sector increased from 22% to 43%. At the same time there was a massive migration of approximately 15 million people to the industrialized towns of the north-west mainly from the southern regions and the islands.

This change has occurred in such a rapid and unplanned fashion that it has been impossible to ensure rational land use in accordance with the availability of natural resources, particularly water, and with the goals of harmonised social and economic improvement.

This has aggravated the conflict among the various users with the consequent deterioration of both land and water resources. The active population of the countryside has declined while the urban agglomerations have become an unwelcome model of bad living conditions.

In the Southern regions rainfall shortages have exacerbated an endemic incapability of meeting some essential water demands including that of potable and domestic use, especially during the summer, when some large urban communities can no longer rely on the volumes of surface water stored in reservoirs or in replenished aquifers.

All these phenomena are relevant to land use since the uncontrolled urban development of recent years has increased water demand in restricted area and in a comparatively short space of time. The difficulty of meeting such a demand from the available resources seems so far to have had very little effect on the actual trend of urban development and has resulted in the need to harness new resources resulting in an aggravation of the conflict among users.

Agriculture has suffered greatly from water shortages as several reservoirs, especially in southern regions, have remained partially empty for a long period of time. Such an unexpected event has aroused justified criticism of a planning activity that, based on the possibility of storing rainwater, had wrought deep changes in the cultivation patterns and favoured new settlements in areas where the natural conditions were not suitable for normal living conditions.

It is estimated that 2,470,600 farms exist in the country; 581,100 of them are managed by women. The average surface of a farm is 5.6 ha.

In 1997, there were 2,302,264 families on Italian farms, numbering 5,804,657 members. People have been leaving the agricultural sector at a higher rate than in the past.

In 1997, 96.5% of Italian farms were managed directly by the farmer, in 80% of these, the farmer managed his farm with the help of family labour only.

Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control

The average precipitation depth is about one meter, corresponding to approximately 109 m3 of water received by the whole land in Italy. Rainfall is extremely variable in the Country, both spatially and temporally.

The surface flow is about 155 x 109 m3 per year. Not all of this water is directly available since part of it belongs to bodies that are difficult to exploit. Potential water availability has been estimated as about 110 x 109 m3.

Considering the existent water storages systems in Italy (dams, reservoirs, etc.), the total exploitable water resources in Italy are estimated at approximately 40 x 109 m3 per year.

According to a recent study, it has been estimated that the total amount of groundwater available in Italy is about 40 x 109 m3 per year, where 30 x 109 m3 are relative to the large regional aquifers, and the remaining 10 x 109 m3 contribute to local aquifers balance. About 30% of the latter are related to spring outlflow. The global national needs for water can be roughly estimated as 50 x 109 m3 per year. Most of this volume is devoted to agriculture (30 x 109 m3), the remaining is used by industry (14.2 x 109 m3) and as municipal water supply (5.8 x 109 m3).

Table : Water Demand in Italy

Water Demand
109 m3
Civil Use
&&149; Domestic
&&149; Non domestic
&&149; Public
&&149; Industrial

The annual amount of water used by the municipal water supply systems in Italy is about 5.8 x 109 m3, for about 300 liters/person per day. The water for civil use is obtained by groundwater (50%), springs (40%) and surface water (10%). The quantity of water used for agricultural purposes can be estimated at about 30 x 109 m3 per year, differing from North (78%), to the Center (5.5%) and to the South (16.5%).The main source of irrigation water is surfaced water from rivers (67%), followed by reservoirs (6%) and groundwater (27%).

Drought has also affected groundwater in the Northern lowlands with aquifers, largely depleted by domestic sue and by irrigation, displayed an unusual lowering of the water table, which lasted long after the period of scarcity was over. In the Central and Southern regions the yield of many springs have greatly decreased.

Hydroelectricity has been badly affected by drought. Generating plant equipped with reservoirs was not only unable to store the required amount of water, but also suffered a reduction of power as an effect of the lower head. In such conditions the pumped storage, characteristic of the most technologically advanced plants, was able to make only a very small contribution. Run-of-plants suffered from shortage of water and low river level, and likewise did the thermal plants, because of the unavailability of cooling water.

The impact of water shortage was very heavy on ecology and preservation of aquatic life, as water withdrawal from bodies was particularly intensive in the absence of other resources. Low flow in a river meant poor dilution of the discharged pollutants, and thus a risk of harming aquatic life. This kind of damage was very serious and persisted long after the emergency had passed.

As shown by the 1988 - 1990 event, a drought, with its associated shortage of water and severe effect on water resources management can deeply impact the economy of an entire region. As such events are likely to be repeated, the responsible Authority should work out rational management criteria to set up suitable conditions for coping with the effects of a foreseeable drought and reducing the damage to the water related activities.

In Italy 2,711,000 hectares are irrigated in 1990 whereas 3,882,000 hectares are potentially irrigable.

In 1944, the ANBI (National Associations for reclamation, irrigation and rural development) was established. ANBI included Consortia for the reclamation, Consortia and agencies for the rural development and Consortia for water management.

The Government has been financing structural works for the reclamation of marsh and ponds, for reforestation, for the control of mountain streams, for strengthening slopes and dunes, for flood control and structures required for rural development. Land owners are obliged to belong to Consortia and are called in to bear the costs of the services provided by Consortia according to the received benefits. The association operates within the public utility system and is the type of enterprise that now predominates in the irrigation districts.

The Consortia collects sufficient funds to meet the annual charges for the operation and maintenance as required to deliver water to users and to maintain the systems in good operational shape.

The equipped surface served in 1998 with water delivered by Consortia is 2,730,601 hectares as shown below:

Table : Equipped Surface Served by Consortia

Equipped Surface ha
South and Isles

A large number of works are managed by Consortia.

ICID and Italy

Italy joined ICID in 1950 as a founder member and has been actively associated with ICID activities in Italy as well as at the international level. The 9th and 46th IEC Meetings were held in Rome, Italy in 1964 and 1995 respectively. Mr. F. Curato, Prof. M. Botallico, Prof. C. Fasso, and Prof. Lucio Ubertini were Vice Presidents of ICID during the terms 1955-58, 1969-72, 1993-1996 and 2007-2010. ITAL-ICID is actively represented in ICID workbodies.


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