Europe’s major rivers are shrinking under the most severe climatic drought in decades.
It’s quite distressing to see powerful rivers like the Loire, the Po and the Rhine reduced to a trickle in places. But the current drought also reveals how dependent we are on them for trade, energy and transport.
The evaporation of the Rhine is of particular concern. At the Kaub bottleneck, near Frankfurt, it is expected to fall below 40cm Friday. This would make it impassable for some larger vessels carrying oil, coal and gas.
German power plants are particularly dependent on deliveries because Russia restricts the flow of gas, and the drought could worsen the country’s energy crisis.
France, which consumes the most nuclear energy in the EU, has also recently ended up in the hot water of the Rhône and the Garonne. This week, the electricity company EDF had to reduce the production of some of its plants because the temperatures were too high to be used river water to cool the plants.
Meanwhile, shocking photos of the Loire near its mouth in Nantes yesterday show far more riverbed than water, with an essentially redundant bridge to the commune of Loireauxence.
Across Europe, here’s how photographers have documented the devastating impact of heatwaves and Drought on our waterways.
The Rhine, Germany
From Switzerland Alpscarving out much of the Franco-German border, defining the German Rhineland and sinking into the Netherlands before reaching the North Sea, the Rhine is a formative part of Europe.
In addition to threatening shipping routes in Germanyits current low levels pose problems for house boat owners on distribution branches, such as on the river Waal in the Netherlands.
The Po, Italy
Italy’s longest river, the Po, struggles to keep its width during the worst of the northern region Drought in 70 years. The water has already completely disappeared from some tributaries – upstream of Torino for example.
The river irrigates almost a third of the area of Italy agricultural production.
“The future of the harvest is uncertain,” said Giovanni Daghetta, owner of a 325-hectare rice field in the province of Pavia. euro news last month. “What is certain is that if this drought persists, it will do enormous damage.”
The Thames, England
Drought has not yet been officially declared in England – that decision rests with the Environment Agency – but the country has just learned its the driest July since 1935.
The source of the Thames has dried up for the first time, experts confirmed last week, moving more than five miles downstream from its original starting point in Gloucestershire.
Thames Water, which supplies large parts of South East England with water, is the latest utility company to announce a ban on garden hoses.
The Danube, Hungary
The water level of the Danube near Budapest has fallen 1.5 meters in the last three weeks and rain is not expected any time soon.
Rising water temperatures in Europe’s second longest river are also worrying experts. It reached over 25°C for seven days in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria.
The warming of the river can cause oxygen to drop below livable levels for fishand concerns have been raised for Danube trout.
The Guadiana, Spain
A period of prolonged drought and Heat wave made last July the hottest month in Spain since records began in 1961.
These extreme conditions left Spain’s reservoirs at just 40% capacity on average in early August, well below the 10-year average of around 60%, according to official data.
Some rural villages in the northeast of the country had no drinking water for more than four hours a day.
With an early heat wave in June and an exceptionally hot and dry month of May, the Loire bed reached a lower level than usual. Water levels are so low that the river can be crossed walk in certain places.
Two-thirds of the country is at a critical level of drought. Four recent heat waves have triggered weeks of Forest fires and reduces the mighty Loire to a stream in some sections.
Last week the government said 100 villages across France were without drinking water.