Speed Reading — Italy Drought - Level 6 — 500 wpm

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Large swathes of Europe are experiencing droughts and water shortages. One region is experiencing its worst drought for 70 years. The area, in northern Italy, has had hardly any rainfall in the past four months. This year's snowfall was 70 per cent lower. This has caused the River Po, Italy's largest, to be three metres lower than average. A lot of the riverbed has dried up and people can walk across the mud. In one part, the declining water level has fully exposed a World War II shipwreck. Authorities are concerned that if it doesn't rain soon, there'll be a serious water shortage. This means water will be rationed for drinking. Farmers will also have problems finding water to irrigate their crops.

A spokesperson from Italy's Po Basin Authority said the water shortages are unprecedented. The river gets much of its water from Lake Maggiore in the Italian Alps. The lake is seeing its lowest water level since 1946. Problems are being exacerbated by higher-than-average temperatures and a mini heat wave. A farmer from the tiny rural town of Guastalla, 150 km southeast of Milan, said she is expecting a "disastrous year". She said: "With such high temperatures and with no rain…the situation is catastrophic." She added: "We believe that there will be a drop in wheat productivity by at least 20 per cent due to the lack of rain." The Po Valley will see a 30 to 40% reduction in fruit and vegetable production.

Comprehension questions
  1. What does the article say is experiencing droughts and water shortages?
  2. How much lower was this year's snowfall?
  3. What did lower water levels reveal in the River Po?
  4. What might be rationed?
  5. What might farmers not be able to do?
  6. When was the last time the water level in Lake Maggiore was so low?
  7. How far is the town of Guastalla from Milan?
  8. What kind of year is a farmer expecting?
  9. By how much did a farmer say wheat production might drop?
  10. What might be produced at 20 to 40% lower rates?

Back to the Italy's drought lesson.

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