Rhine falls to record low water level at Dutch entry point; Measures readied for waterways
Measurements of the Rhine River water level in Lobith, Gelderland fell to the lowest ever recorded on Thursday morning, Dutch infrastructure agency Rijkswaterstaat confirmed after initial reporting by Nu.nl. At 8 a.m., the water level was 6.48 meters above NAP. Rijkswaterstaat expects the water level to drop further to approximately 6.45 meters above NAP over the course of next week.
The water level of the Rhine near Lobith was measured at 6.49 meters above NAP on 29 October 2018. Until now, this was regarded as the lowest water level ever.
What is particularly exceptional is that the Rhine reached the new record low in the summer. The river usually falls to its lowest annually water level in the autumn, when meltwater no longer flows into the river from the Alps.
The water level of the Rhine will rise slightly in the coming days, because of rainfall in the river basin. But it will soon be dry and warm again, meaning the water level will continue to fall next week, according to Rijkswaterstaat.
The Rhine is also discharging an extremely small amount of water to the rest of the Netherlands. The discharge dropped to about 650 cubic meters per second. A discharge of less than 800 cubic meters per second in summer has only occurred twice before, in 1976 and 1949.
Measures could soon be in effect due to low water levels
Additional measures may take effect for Dutch waterways in connection with the ongoing drought. There has been an official water shortage since the beginning of this month, particularly in the east and south, including Zeeland.
Two measures are ready if the drought continues. The first is to prevent further salinization of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, the second possible step is one-way traffic for ships on the Boven-IJssel in connection with the falling water levels, according to the Water Shortage Management Team (MTW). The group convened this month for the first time since 2018, and includes experts from Rijkswaterstaat, local water boards, drinking water companies, and officials from the provincial and national governments.
A tube at the bottom of the North Sea Canal near the Zeeburg pumping station can be activated in the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal. The air bubbles stall the saltwater, preventing it from entering the freshwater stream. Other measures may be taken to prevent salinization by the Diemen power plant, where water from the Markermeer enters the canal.
One-way traffic for all shipping on the Boven-IJssel will become necessary if the water level drops to 1.45 meters in any single place. Ships from Germany in the direction of Kampen and the Twente Canals will then have to circumnavigate the Waal, the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal and the IJsselmeer, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Reporting by ANP