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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
European droughts: Your experiences
Forest fire in Portugal taken from a plane by Oliver Colenso
Southern parts of the continent - including Spain, Portugal, France and Italy - are experiencing one of the most severe heatwaves on record.

Several European countries have responded to Portugal's request for help in fighting wildfires raging across the country.

Spain has also seen a wave of forest fires. At least 11 volunteer firefighters died as they fought one blaze in the central Spanish province of Guadalajara.

If you have been affected by the droughts and extreme heat affecting southern Europe, send us your experiences using the form on the right.

If you have pictures of how you or your local area have been affected, you can send them to: yourpics@bbc.co.uk

This Have Your Say is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your comments:

We are buying in feed as there isn't a blade of grass left
Carol, Limoges, France
We have a few sheep, and trying to keep them fed and watered is a nightmare. We are buying in feed as there isn't a blade of grass left. The well ran dry although it is spring fed but the level is now slowly recovering since we started using (and paying for) the commune water. We are sending our lambs off for slaughter 2 months early this year because of the drought. However, tourist season in full swing - swimming pools seem to be full.
Carol, Limoges, France

Limassol has been unbearable during July, with humidity well over 80% and temperatures in the high 30's. Not as much water flowed into the reservoirs this year, and the levels are now dropping dramatically. But, it doesn't seem to stop the locals hosing down their verandahs and patios twice a day - and the excess water just runs off down the streets until it evaporates!
Sara, Limassol, Cyprus

Desertification in southern Europe is not due to rampant growth but to changes in local climate and the lack of water and forest management policies. Indeed, local policies are inexistent or disregarded, but this is just a modest view of the issue because, on a global scale, there are also no visible actions to minimise the effects of climate change.
Artur, Lisboa, Portugal

My friend lives in Spain and told me today it was 47 degree in the shade! I was out there 5 weeks ago and it was so uncomfortable. The heat is extreme, but all you can do is put up with it.
Mattie Ball, Swindon

It's been very cold and wet here. Strange summer, the world is having. Some places it is too hot and dry, other places, like Prague, you would swear it's autumn or winter, with all the rain and cold we are having.
Adam, Prague, Czech Republic

I've been keeping a keen eye on this since I'm due to holiday in west France towards the end of August. We should limit our water consumption. I'm not metered but would welcome a move to "Put us all on a meter!" It won't cost as much if we all chip in and spread the cost. I teach my kids to save resources too.
Andy, Maidstone, Kent

Public pressure must continue on our leaders so they do their jobs
Silvia Adaes, CT, USA
I live in the USA but am originally from Portugal, the north, where people rely solely on the fertility of the ground in order to survive. With agriculture being the prominent way of living in this small nation, it amazes me that the government feels its hands are financially tied to provide aid and develop programs to help in decreasing the consumption of water. Public pressure must continue on our leaders so they do their jobs.
Silvia Adaes, CT, USA

Well, yes, they tell us there's a drought on and farmers in France are complaining about the measures taken to restrict the use of water - i.e. to irrigate crops which will presumably be used to feed us if they can ever be harvested. But, while having a quiet beer in the picturesque Petite France area of Strasbourg the other day, I saw a restaurateur literally hosing down the front of his restaurant, totally unconcerned about wasting such a finite resource. Water has also been used - I seem to recall the figure of 60,000 litres - to hose down certain roads taken by the Tour de France to stop the tar melting. Mixed priorities, mixed signals. One rule for some people and another for others?
Paul, Strasbourg, France

The craziest thing of all that throughout the Mediterranean tens of thousands of litres of water are wasted daily washing down boats moored in marinas just to remove salt.
Clive Clifford, Ajaccio Corsica

On a densely populated island with little rain, we are used to this and there are measures taken: reverse osmosis, cisterns, pumps, drip irrigation plastic-sheets over the soil for water conserving farming, use of third class water for washing floors, flushing toilets and watering flower gardens - and some plants survive in midsummer on bare rocks by absorbing the morning dew
Albert, Malta

It's not true that water is being rationed in half of the country nor in major tourist resorts. I work and live in one of then, in the South, in Andalucia, and can say it is not the case, being very up to date with the news of the country and the drought in particular being a matter of great concerned.
Sara Martz, Marbella - Spain

Since 2002 there has been no appreciable rain in the central and southern region
Andy Blackwell, Alcochete-Portugal
Having lived here for 18 years I have seen the fires appear every year and the only people who seem to be surprised each year are the authorities. Since 2002 there has been no appreciable rain in the central and southern region, it is only now that any measures of conservation have been publicised. Poor forestry management and arson are probably the biggest source of the fires
Andy Blackwell, Alcochete-Portugal

Living without water on tap is possible with patience and common sense, as you quickly learn to recycle when you pay for the water. However, restaurants and supermarkets are raising the cost of bottled water astronomically. One Euro, 30c for the smallest bottle you can buy now on offer in an Albufeira cafe.
Pamela Francis, North Algarve, Portugal

Here in central Portugal the pollution from the thick smoke of fires 60 miles north of us is comparable to fog with about half a mile visibility all around. The sun has been changed to an eerie light, orange glow and the ash falling on us stings our eyes.
Jan Langford, Castelo Branco, Portugal

The village I am on holidays (and where I come from) is under terrible circumstances. Fire is surrounding the whole population and hundreds of other people are here homeless from other areas under this terrible calamity. What the Spanish are doing is a strong message to the Portuguese and other southern European countries. A "no mess about with fire" rule is in my opinion, a good rule.
Pedro Mendes, Loriga, Portugal

Animals everywhere hover desperately next to the only remaining water holes
Gerome, La Roquette sur Siagne
Here in my village in France, the river going by our house has completely dried up, except a tiny metre long stretch of water which holds the few surviving fish along with littered bottles. I have walked as far up my river as possible and only there is no water left! The wild boar come closer each night to our house in search of water. Animals everywhere hover desperately next to the only remaining water holes.
Gerome, La Roquette sur Siagne

The Spanish people make no effort to conserve water. Their swimming pools are all full, car washes are all open for business and garden sprinklers have not stopped.
Phil, Barcelona, Spain

I live in the Algarve, and we have not yet felt the direct consequences of the drought, but I try to reduce my water and electricity consumption as much as possible. Sooner or later water will be rationed in our area, as y nobody seems concerned. My city's council is giving a terrible example: They keep the water fountains in function, and they send their staff to water the municipal gardens at noon! How do they expect people to cooperate? I also don't see a single sign of a campaign to make people alert to this problem. When the consequences finally hit, everyone will act very upset, and blame their neighbours as usual.
Rita Sousa, Portim, Portugal

A man walks with a dog along a dry cracked reservoir bed in Alcora, eastern Spain
Southern European countries have been starved of rain
I live in a village in the South of Spain. This summer may become the wake-up call that Spain has needed in order to tackle its environmental impacts. It's not necessarily the golf courses that directly cause the droughts but rather the urbanisations that accompany them that are the problem. Construction of second homes requires water in the building phase as well as when occupied. Relentless and uncontrolled building is caused by local governments who draw their main fiscal revenues from building licences. Similarly, until recently at least, fire-damaged land could easily be re-classified for urbanisation. Until the roots of the problem are tackled, Kyoto will be a little too late for Spain.
Tom Gosselin, Cadiz, Spain

We've been tinder-dry really since May. For once our local government acted early and there have been restrictions on water use since Easter. So far this year we've had just under than 200mm of rain - rather less than is average for January alone. Trees have started to shed their leaves already and the harvest from sunflowers looks like being halved.
Jon, France

My friend, who lives 15 kilometres from the forest fire, told me "it looks like hell"
Jorge Sanz Garcia, Almazan, Spain
A huge column of smoke could be seen from my town, which is situated 70 kilometres from the place where the forest fire started. My friend, who lives 15 kilometres from the scene told me "it looks like hell". Today is a very sad day in Spain because 11 brave firefighters have died. My heart and my thoughts go with them. We need to rapidly improve our logistics to fight against the fire and the drought or our country will be a desert in a few decades.
Jorge Sanz Garcia, Almazan, Spain

When I woke up this morning it was 23C. I travelled to work on the metro, but even with air conditioning it was very warm. When I had lunch it was 29C and now I've come home it's about 33C. All this, and this is a cold day! The lack of rain through the winter and the bitterly cold March have been followed by a very hot spell. Many of the locals are suffering. Can you imagine what it's like for someone from Manchester! Like many in this city I'm also praying for rain soon.
Paul, Madrid, Spain (ex Manchester, UK)

I am finding it hard to understand why we have a drought here in southern Spain. True, there has been little rain this year, but the Spring of 2004 was one of the wettest on record, and reservoirs were said to be at 85% capacity. In fact, we suffered flooding because the deluges in May broke the banks of streams and reservoirs. For Heaven's sake, we are not in Africa, where they suffer many years without rain. Surely good water management, mending of the leaks and public education (and dare I whisper -build fewer thirsty Golf courses!) would have some effect. I have never received any information from the water companies about saving water - their favourite tactic seems to be just to switch off for a few hours without warning!
Ged Harrison, Malaga, Spain

The problem is not only the dryness but also the carelessness of the population and those responsible for cleaning the forest
Maria Raposo, Coimbra, Portugal
The problem is not only the dryness but also the carelessness of the population and of those responsible for cleaning the forest and the soil, of all the thicket. Every year at the end of the summer people realise that the problem is not only the dryness and heat, but a series of factors. Some have a solution, like cleaning the area around our houses, not throwing garbage and other flammable stuff into the forest or letting the thicket grow. But no one cares or does a thing and then everyone is screaming and blaming the government for not having enough means to battle the fire nearby, and it's really not just their fault!
Maria Raposo, Coimbra, Portugal

I witnessed two separate forest fires in Catalonia, north of Barcelona last Friday evening while driving down to Spain from the French border - many kilometres of the autopista were blanketed in smoke (made worse by the strong wind) and helicopters were trying to control the fires by dropping water. The local papers all have warnings regarding the continuing drought and the risks of starting a fire. The recent northward expansion of desert bird species now reportedly breeding in southern Spain, such as the Trumpeter Finch and cream-coloured Courser should serve as a natural measure of the changing Spanish climate.
Simon Priestnall, Hatfield, UK

We rely more on common sense and helping each other out, rather than government intervention
Pasquale Cambareri, Reggio Di Calabria, southern Italy
Here in southern Italy, we have learned to live with drought. We collect what little rain water there is to water our vegetable gardens, and everyone has a reservoir to collect water during the day, because the tap water is rationed and is turned off at night by the local government. We work in the morning, have a Spanish-style siesta in the afternoon, and resume work in the early evening. We have beaches, and eat a lot of fresh foods. Our houses are built of thick cement walls, some are centuries old, and we don't need air conditioners, because we have fresh air from the mountains and the sea. We rely more on common sense and helping each other out, rather than relying on government intervention.
Pasquale Cambareri, Reggio Di Calabria, southern Italy

Forest fires across the Mediterranean should not be deemed so dramatic. They have occurred normally since ancient times. The forests here lack the fungus found in central Europe that can quickly disintegrate even large trunks of trees. As a result, highly combustible materials, even single pine needles constantly accumulate, until a fire breaks out. Trying to prevent fires, causes even more combustibles to accumulate, thus making a possible fire later even more devastating. Fortunately, nature has adapted, by developing fire-resistant flora; after a fire, tree roots and seeds remain intact, and a pine forest can fully be redeveloped in three to five years, without human intervention at all.
Vasilis, Thessaloniki, Greece

It is necessary to once again remind all Spaniards and all tourists who visit Spain that small precautions are not enough
Vicente Aguilo, L'Eliana, Spain
The dramatic forest fires in Spain are a consequence of one extreme drought. Every year, all Spanish public administrations invest more in prevention. But all this economic investment is useless if the citizens do not sensitise ourselves to the dangers of the use of fire. Most forest fires have human causes. Negligence is the great enemy of the forests. For this reason it is necessary to once again remind all Spaniards and all tourists who visit Spain that small precautions are not enough. This year the Spanish forests are like powder. Please exercise caution, caution and more caution!
Vicente Aguilo, L'Eliana, Spain

We live in the Sierra west of Madrid and had a forest fire come within 100 metres of our house last year. This summer is drier and hotter. The two fires we have had nearby this year were caused by sparks from a train and a suspected lit cigarette thrown from a car. It's only a matter of time before we have more. We had almost no rain between November and March and very little since then. After living in England until recently, it's a novelty to be praying for rain, and lots of it!
David Harper, Robledo de Chavela, Spain

This hasn't been the worst year for forest fires. Every year there is a big one and dozens of other major fires as the forests become a tinderbox whether there is a drought or not. In Madrid the fountains are splashing all over the place and the swimming pools are full, the sprinklers along Arturo Soria, where I live, soak the extensive public gardens along the avenue every night. Unfortunately for some regions the main hydrological plan tabled several years ago to canal water from Catalonia across the country south some 500 miles to the driest region, Murcia, were scuppered. There is plenty of water in Spain but the country lacks the regional cohesion to tackle its effective distribution.
Robert Wilkinson, Madrid, Spain

We have a house in the mountains to the west of Madrid and so far we have been lucky. Everyone is very worried as the countryside is dry as a tinderbox right now. Near our house is a reservoir and a lake that they use to fill the firefighting helicopters, and we see them every couple of days now. It only takes one person with a cigarette or a barbeque to start the next one. The last fire near us happened two years ago and was started by the sparks from the railway carriage brakes. Luckily we only lost a few hundred square metres. That's all it takes when everything is so dry. You only have to smell smoke right now and people are out looking where it's coming from, to see if it is a fire or just a BBQ. We really are all that nervous.
Rod Bailey, Madrid, Spain

I fear for my country's forests, and also for its people
Pedro Teles, Porto, Portugal
I haven't been directly affected by the severe droughts that have been happening in Portugal since 2003. This isn't new. Every summer is hotter than the previous one. I fear for my country's forests, and also for its people. Especially the ones who live in the more rural areas, many already deprived of so much, and now they have to face this. The government should make helping these people a priority.
Pedro Teles, Porto, Portugal

I totally agree with Pedro Teles from Porto. It is the lack of policies for rural, deprived areas, by the Spanish and Portuguese politicians that is the main concern. Instead of investing in forest development and fire prevention, they spend the money in city fountains, green gardens, and golf courses, and leave the poor, deprived people of rural Iberia to govern themselves with whatever they can. By the way, these areas do not receive practically any subsidies. These are gathered by informed and well developed farmers, instead. Central Spain and Northern Portugal must press together for active rural policies.
Javier Garcia, Edmonton, Canada

The recent forest fires here have been so bad that there was thick smoke hanging in the air and ash everywhere. Meanwhile, I'm doing my best to save water. But the council insists on putting the sprinklers on during the afternoon heat, just to water the grass. How can we save our country with leaders who set such an example?
Paula Ferreira, Braga, Portugal

This last winter I was living in Granada and working as a ski instructor in Sierra Nevada. Everyone I met in the region said they had never seen so little rain or snow. Even during the winter when the rains failed, all the Spaniards I met were getting worried about the lack of rain and it also meant that we had to close up shop in the ski resort much earlier than forecast.
Andrew Edmondston-Low, Luxembourg

Thank God we have lots of beaches nearby
Dennis Theodoropoulos, Thessaloniki, Greece
Here in Greece we are facing the danger of an electricity blackout as air conditioners consume a lot of electricity. Thank God we have lots of beaches nearby and very cool islands!
Dennis Theodoropoulos, Thessaloniki, Greece

Ninety percent of the South-Eastern coast of Spain is now declared to be inevitably heading towards desertification. Many areas are already completely devastated by continuous years of imposed droughts.
Maria Amparo, Alicante, Spain

Living in SW France close to the Pyrenees we have been lucky. The drought of the past two summers and following two winters, combined with searing heat (40C+), has resulted so far in only the loss of several mature trees (American and Pyrenean oaks, Chestnut, and Sequoia). Clearly, however, if our experience is widespread, the cumulative effect will become catastrophic, affecting in turn the amount of rain falling. If we really wish to slow down, halt and then reverse this current trend it is clear that an enormous change in consumption of hydrocarbon fuels and water is required.
Brian Boyes, Pau, France

No one makes any effort as far as I can see to save water
Andrew, Huesca, Spain
The local dam feeding Huesca (pop: 45,000) is at 2% capacity. A couple of months ago, the mayor was one of the few Spanish mayors to close the municipal outdoor swimming pools. However, he reversed his decision a few weeks ago and they open tomorrow. No one seems to be overly worried (except for the farmers, who want subsidies, as usual). No one makes any effort as far as I can see to save water.
Andrew, Huesca, Spain

I agree with the comments of Andrew. I live in a small town in Cadiz, and every morning the local council workers are out watering the pavements and roads. I understand the need to keep the dust down, but surely something else can be done. People seem to do nothing to save water, even though this has been a problem for years and everyone knows it's going to happen again and again. Instead of pragmatic solutions, it's time for forward thinking and long term planning.
Marcus B, Cadiz, Spain

The heat outside buildings and offices isn't that bad. The problem is on the subway and trains. Overcrowded, poorly ventilated trains with no A/C can really be a death trap. 50 degrees is common during the evening rush hour. I just can't understand how a member of the G7 can put the citizens of its richest (and possibly highest-taxed) city at risk like this.
Miguel Sanchez, Milan, Italy

I've been affected by water shortages, especially when I was travelling through southern Portugal. What is most alarming is that the former and the present governments didn't take all the necessary measures to prevent this severe drought, which started to show its signs back in late November 2004. So one reaches the conclusion that there are a couple of billion euros to build ten new stadiums to host the Euro 2004 football championship, but resources are simply not there to prevent and combat these disasters.
Bruno Ferrari, Lisbon, Portugal

There's no need for the elderly to lose their lives in a heatwave. I live in a western town where scarcely a summer passes without a 40 degree day or two and we do not lose dozens of old folk. Think simple common-sense measures! A few very low-cost, low-energy preventatives: Avoid exertion and going out during the heat of the day. Dress lightly. Fill a tub with water and periodically climb in, pouring water over your head and shoulders. If you do not have a tub, soak your feet in a bucket and mop your upper body with a washrag. Drink when thirsty, but do not overdo it. Don't heat up the kitchen. Eat fresh foods, nuts, fruits, dairy, or plan meals so baking and boiling can be done in the early hours. And don't forget to phone grandma or grandpa at least daily during a crisis!
Alberto Enriquez, Medford, OR, USA

Every summer, I get 100 days of 40C. Don't wear a suit coat, drink lots of liquids, eat light meals, open a window, go outside and water the garden, go to the ocean and swim. Last of all - live with it!
Joseph Oleson, San Diego, California, USA

Joseph: Water your garden? In a severe drought? It's not about the temperatures, but the lack of water and desertification process that is happening in southern Europe. The problem is that there is no awareness of the problem by people that think the tap is an infinite resource and don't think twice about leaving it open whilst brushing teeth or washing-up. The average daily consumption per person is approximately two hundred litres. Surely we can reduce that just by not being careless! We all want to have rights for this and that in our society, yet we constantly run away from our responsibilities.
Daniel Rodriguez, Guildford, UK

Hear Hear, Mr Rodriguez! In California, we are accustomed to water conservation, but the American west in general is in for hard times, as much of it is in the midst of long-term drought. In addition, the west is growing at a pace which the landscape simply cannot support. The result? Desertification, more dams, disputes between cities and farmers, draining of lakes. This is what southern Europe has to look forward to if policy changes are not enforced or rampant growth is left unchecked.
John, Lafayette, California, USA




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Europe feels heat
29 Jun 05 |  In Pictures
Iberian misery as drought bites
13 Jun 05 |  Europe



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