Southern Europe countries are experiencing their worst drought in decades.

Reservoirs are drying up, crops are at risk, and water supplies are dwindling.

The extreme drought in Spain forced officials to declare emergency situations across the country.

And officials are concerned the problem will get worse before it gets better.

What is Causing the Drought in Spain

Researchers say climate change is a major factor causing the drought in Spain and southern Europe.

Spain has shown noticeable signs of climate change since 1980, but the symptoms have increased since 2000. As such, drought and dry spells are occurring more frequently across the region.

Southern Europe already sits in a subtropical climate. As the world’s temperature slowly rises dues to the impacts of global warming, this already temperate region is becoming even hotter. Warmer temperatures can impact the regional weather patterns, reducing rain totals and making the area susceptible to heatwaves.

The drought in Spain and southern Europe will have a major impact throughout the region. Here are four ways in which the area will be affected.

1. The Drought in Spain Impacts Crops

Changing to the weather pattern and temperatures in southern Europe will have a drastic impact on farmers and their crops.

In recent years, wheat, oats, and barley production in Spain was reduced by 15 to 20 percent as a result of the drought.

The problem isn’t just isolated to the Iberian Peninsula. Farmers in Italy reported 2017 as one of the worst yields in years for cereal, almonds, and olives. In some regions of southern Europe, cereal crop loss was predicted to hit 70 percent.

The crop shortage will have a dual impact on the region. First, villages and towns that rely on the crops will need to find other means for food. Second, less crop production means less profit for farmers and their workers. In addition, regions may actually have to spend more money to import crops from less affected areas.

2. The Drought in Spain Impacts the Water Supply

Another major impact of the drought in Spain is the impact it will have on the region’s water supply.

The Tagus River has been especially hard hit by the recent drought. Record high temperatures and a fraction of Spain’s average rainfall have caused portions of the river to dry up. If this water supply dwindles, it would be devastating news for Madrid. The city relies on the river to supply water to its 6 million residents.

To supply water to their crops and homes, illegal wells have sprung up through some of the hardest hit areas in Spain. However, this further exacerbates the problem because these wells just pump more water out of already critically low water tables.

3. The Drought in Spain Impacts Wildlife

Wildlife are increasingly finding their habitats threatened by the drought in Spain.

As rivers and wetlands dry up, less rain is being produced to replenish these waterways. As a result, salt water from coastal areas pushes further upstream, killing plants and fish that rely on freshwater to survive.

This has an impact on the larger animals that make their homes along the river banks. The food in their habitat is dying, so they are forced to leave their homes in search of a more suitable place to survive.

The world is beginning to take notice of this impacted. UNESCO has threatened to give Spain’s Doñana World Heritage site a danger listing. The organization says climate change and the country’s failure to protect the area from industrial developers have put the wetlands and its inhabitants at risk.

4. The Drought in Spain Creates Deadly Wildfires

Possibly one of the most dangerous impacts of the drought in Spain and southern Europe is the increased risk of wildfires.

Wildfires killed at least 44 people across portions of Spain and Portugal in October 2017. The region has seen an increase in fires over the past 10 years. Officials say drought conditions – specifically low humidity, high temperatures, and a lack of rain – contributed to the fires.

Combating the Drought

The best way to revert climate change for the international community to recognize the dangers caused by global warming and take steps to prevent it.

It appears this is beginning to happen. Nearly 200 nations around the world have agreed to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by their countries.

We’ll have to wait and see what, if any, impact these new regulations have on southern Europe and the drought in Spain.