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Dropping Water levels in Germany’s Rhine River

  • 09 Jun 2020
  • 2 min read

Why in News

Recently, a part of the Rhine River flowing through Germany has been experiencing its lowest water levels in two decades.

  • The lowest water levels have prompted fears of shipping disruption on Europe’s most important inland waterway.
    • Rhine waters in Germany have dropped 40% since April 2020.

Key Points

  • Reduced Water Levels:
    • Germany has not received the spring showers and subsequently, the water level dropped to around 1 meter in the month of June which is the lowest for the time of year in at least two decades.
      • Usually, a mix of glacial run-off and rain feeds the river, but contributions from glaciers have been disturbed in recent years due to global warming.
    • Germany had experienced dropped water levels in 2018 which had disrupted industrial ships, severing downriver factories from North Sea ports.
  • Impacts:
    • The water drop levels in 2018 were severe enough to affect German economic growth.
    • Further, groundwater levels have reduced after record-breaking heat waves recorded in 2019 which have consequently dried out soil and wilted vegetation from consecutive years of drought.
    • Additionally, if the low water levels are sustained, refineries using the river’s water will have reduced output compared to 2018.

Rhine River

  • The Rhine River is the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe after the Danube and originates in the Swiss Alps (in Switzerland).
  • The Rhine river is called by different names depending on the country it flows through. It is called Rhein in Germany; Rhine in France and Rijn in the Netherlands.
  • The Rhine flows through six countries -Switzerland, Principality of Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands before flowing into the North Sea at Rotterdam.


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