In pictures: Europe’s mighty rivers are drying up in the climate-driven drought

Europe’s major rivers are shrinking under probably the most severe climate-driven drought in a long time.

It’s distressing enough to see mighty waterways just like the Loire, Po and Rhine reduced to a trickle in places.  But the continued drought can be revealing how much we depend upon them for trade, energy and transport.

The Rhine’s evaporation is particularly concerning. On the chokepoint of Kaub, near Frankfurt, it is anticipated to fall below 40cm on Friday. This might make it impassable for some larger ships carrying supplies of oil, coal and gas. 

German power plants are particularly depending on the deliveries as Russia restricts gas flow, and the drought could compound the country’s energy crisis.

France, which uses probably the most nuclear energy within the EU, has also recently run into hot water on the Rhône and Garonne rivers. This week, electricity utility company EDF had to scale back output at a few of its power stations as temperatures were too high to make use of river water to chill the plants down.

Meanwhile shocking photos of the Loire near its mouth at Nantes yesterday show way more river bed than water, with an essentially redundant bridge to the Loireauxence commune.

Across Europe, here’s how photographers have been documenting the devastating impact of heatwaves and drought on our waterways.

The Rhine, Germany

Flowing from the Swiss Alps, carving much of the Franco-German border, defining the German Rhineland and careering into the Netherlands before reaching the North Sea, the Rhine is a formative a part of Europe. 

In addition to threatening shipping routes in Germany, its current low levels are causing problems for house boat owners on distributary branches, resembling on the Netherlands’ Waal River.

The Po, Italy

Italy’s longest river, the Po, has been struggling to retain its width through the northern region’s worst drought in 70 years. Water has already completely disappeared from some tributaries – upstream of Turin for instance. 

The river provides irrigation for nearly a 3rd of Italy’s agricultural production. 

“The long run of the harvest is uncertain,” Giovanni Daghetta, who owns a 325-hectare rice farm within the province of Pavia, told Euronews last month. “What is definite is that if this drought persists it is going to do enormous damage.” 

The Thames, England

Drought has not been formally declared in England yet – that call rests with the Environment Agency – however the country has just experienced its driest July since 1935.

The source of the Thames has dried up for the primary time, experts confirmed last week, moving greater than five miles downstream from its original place to begin in Gloucestershire. 

Thames Water, which provides water to large parts of southeast England, is the most recent utility company to announce a hosepipe ban. 

The Danube, Hungary

The water level of the Danube near Budapest has dropped by 1.5 metres within the last three weeks, and rain is not expected any time soon.

Rising water temperatures in Europe’s second-longest river have also been worrying experts. It reached greater than 25C for seven days within the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria. 

River heating could cause oxygen to drop beyond liveable levels for fish, and concerns have been raised for the Danube’s trout. 

The Guadiana, Spain

A protracted dry spell and heatwave made last July the most well liked month in Spain since records began in 1961.

These extreme conditions left Spanish reservoirs at just 40 per cent of capability on average in early August, well below the ten-year average of around 60 per cent, official data shows.

Some rural villages within the northeast of the country were left with drinking water for just 4 hours a day. 

The Loire, France

With an early heatwave in June and an unusually hot and dry month of May, the bed of the Loire has reached a lower level than usual. Water levels are so low that the river will be crossed on foot in certain places. 

Two-thirds of the country is at a crisis level for drought. 4 recent heatwaves have triggered weeks of wildfires and reduced the mighty Loire to a stream in some stretches. 

Last week, the federal government said 100 villages across France were without protected tap water.


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