European Heat Wave Forces Switzerland to Airlift Water to Cows

A prolonged European heat wave and Switzerland’s worst drought in nearly a century have prompted the Swiss government to airlift water to cows in remote pastures in the Jura mountains and Alpine foothills.

The government used Swiss Army Super Puma helicopters to ferry large containers of water to cattle operations in high-altitude pastures in Vaud canton in western Switzerland. Roughly 40,000 cattle graze in the region, and some farmers have been able to receive water from tanker trucks. But farms in remote regions have been forced to rely on the airlifts, officials said.

One farmer said that the government has airlifted water to cattle in high Swiss pastures on previous occasions, but never to the degree needed this summer. A Vaud official said Switzerland is suffering its worst drought since 1921.

This summer’s heat wave, which has driven temperatures in southern Europe to 115 degrees F, has parched fields and damaged agriculture throughout Europe. Along Swiss sections of the Rhine, thousands of fish have been killed in recent days by high water temperatures and low oxygen levels.