The Venice canals were built over a thousand years ago and have since played an important role in Venice’s history and culture, continuing to be a vital part of the city’s economy and way of life. However, the canals have also faced environmental challenges over the years, including pollution and rising sea levels, now they experience severe low tides.
Due to the dry winter weather, there is a significant water shortage in Italian rivers and lakes. In the Venice canals, the water level can drop significantly, exposing the muddy bottom and creating some challenges for boats and watercrafts. Gondolas, water busses and even ambulances were left stuck in the mud, and medical crews had to reach patients on foot.
The extreme low tides are caused by a combination of factors such as sea currents, wind direction, and changes in atmospheric pressure. According to officials, Venice’s water levels have fallen to 26 inches below the normal sea level. This comes after the worst drought in 70 years, hit the country last year in July and prompted a state of emergency for critical agricultural areas surrounding Italy’s longest river, Po. As per Legambiente environmental group, the Po, which runs from the Alps in the northwest to the Adriatic, has 61% less water than is normal for this time of year.
“We are in a water deficit situation that has been building up since the winter of 2020-2021,” climate expert Massimiliano Pasqui told Corriere della Sera. “We need to recover 500 millimetres in the north-western regions: we need 50 days of rain,” he added.
Also, in the Alps, less snow than half the average amount has fallen this season, which raises concerns that Italy could face another drought.