Wednesday 30 November 2022

River Rhine water level approaching record low, water provision under threat

Photo: Prashanthns via Wikimedia Commons

The water level in the river Rhine as it enters the Netherlands at Lobith is approaching a record low, causing problems for shipping and the irrigation of crops, waterways authority Rijkswaterstaat has confirmed.

The hot weather is expected to continue and that will cause the river to drop to a level that has only been seen twice in the last 100 years later this month, a Rijkswaterstaat spokesman told broadcaster NOS.

The exceptionally low level will have great consequences for water provision in the Netherlands, NOS said. The national water management advisory body LCW will have a meeting on Wednesday to discuss possible measures.

It has already put measures in place to prevent ships from running aground, for instance on the IJssel river. Shipping channels have become so narrow that only one ship may pass at the time. A weir at Driel is keeping the river navigable now that water levels in Germany, which feed the river, are also dropping.

However, the Rhine has no weirs and water levels cannot be controlled in this way, Rijkwaterstaat said.

In May farmers organisation ZLTO warned that without rain the price of potatoes would rise and other harvests fail. In the south east of Brabant, farmers have already been banned from pumping water out of ditches and rivers to protect water plants while in Zeeland, measures are being take to stop lakes drying up.

The year 2022 is one of the five driest years on record so far. Although 2018, 2019 and 2020 were also extremely dry, the driest year in the Netherlands on record remains 1976.

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