Water, Italian dams do not exploit 6.5 billion cubic meters

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In the large Italian dams, almost 6.5 billion cubic meters of water, essential for managing the hottest months of the year, are not exploited due to lack of maintenance and blockages of bureaucracy. The data emerges from the White Book 2024 Value of Water for Italy by The European House Ambrosetti which will be presented on March 21st and 22nd at the Roman Aquarium in Rome together with the Blue Book 2024 by Fondazione Utilitatis and Utilitalia which collects all the updated data on the integrated water service.

The 532 large Italian reservoirs can potentially collect up to 13.8 billion cubic meters of water to date, to which are added approximately 800 million cubic meters from small reservoirs, but on average 33% (4.3 billion m3) of their volume is reduced due to the debris that accumulates in the seabed (silting) with peaks of up to 48% in the territories of the Po river. In this context, the regulatory uncertainty regarding hydroelectric concessions, in recent years, has limited investments of the operators. The failure to accumulate water due to siltation adds up to a further 1.9 billion cubic meters of collection capacity already available in the current infrastructural system of dams in Italy, but never authorised.

«The ability to collect water and retain it for the hottest periods of the year», states Valerio De Molli, managing partner and CEO of Ambrosetti, «is fundamental for the stability of the main production sectors, in particular for our agricultural and energy to which 60% and 32% of the stored volumes are destined respectively. Next 21 and 22 March in Rome”, added De Molli, “we will meet with the protagonists of the economy and politics in Italy to plan concrete and immediate responses to the drought emergency which puts the future of our territory and the stability of our economy.”

From the analysis conducted by Teha’s Valore Acqua per l’Italia Community which represents 37 Partners among the main companies and institutions involved in the extended water supply chain and in-depth in the pages of the 2024 White Book, Lombardy, Sardinia and Sicily host the largest number of large dams, 77, 59 and 46 respectively with a capacity of 4, 2.5 and 1.1 billion cubic meters, i.e. over 50% of the total national capacity. Due to the lack of underground water sources, the size of large reservoirs is on average larger in the South and on the Islands. «Small reservoirs are also important», specifically adds Benedetta Brioschi, head of the Water Value Community of The European House Ambrosetti, «which, although limited in volume, offer flexibility to the territories. In Italy there are 26,288 registered with Tuscany hosting 62%. Overall, it is estimated that their collection capacity amounts to 800 million cubic meters.”

Although there are peaks in age in regions such as Liguria (92 years of age), Valle d’Aosta (84) and Piedmont (82), there are also younger dams, such as those in Molise (35 years on average), in Puglia ( 41 years) and in Calabria (50 years). The need for modernization and maintenance is pressing to ensure the safety and efficiency of these crucial infrastructures. In this sense, it is more urgent than ever to guarantee regulatory certainty regarding hydroelectric concessions, at the center of the recent debate with the Energy Decree, to guarantee operators’ investments.

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