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Trade along Moselle slows down as rivers dry up

Trade along Moselle slows down as rivers dry up

by Yannick LAMBERT 11.08.2022
The Our and Upper Sûre rivers in northern Luxembourg have 'particularly low and worrying levels', government said
An excursion ship on the Moselle
An excursion ship on the Moselle
Photo credit: Anouk Antony

Low water levels at the Moselle river following weeks of heatwaves and very little rain is affecting trade as ships can only carry half as much cargo, a civil servant responsible for dams and locks said on Thursday.

The Moselle, like the Rhine, is not always three metres deep at the moment, which means ships can only carry half as much cargo as usual, Philippe Proehs told radio station 100,7. 

Ships usually transport goods such as building materials or agricultural products along the Moselle and most come from southern Germany or the Ruhr area, he said.

River levels currently only reach half the levels seen in the past two years, the government said in a press release on Wednesday.  Last week, the Moselle's source in France was drying up.

The continent's rivers and canals contribute around €78 billion towards Europe's economy just as a mode of transport, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Eurostat figures.

The Our and Upper Sûre rivers in northern Luxembourg "have particularly low and worrying levels", with the rivers in the Oesling region reaching only a quarter of their usual levels on average, the government said.

The water levels in the south of the country are less affected and as of July they reached on average around 60% of normal monthly levels. This month, in "a rare and worrying event", some smaller rivers have dried up completely, the government said.

Although showers and thunderstorms are expected at the end of the week, they would "hardly change the critical situation of our rivers", the government said. At least two weeks of consecutive rainfall would be needed to significantly improve the situation, the government estimated.

The low water levels are also impacting the ecology, as there is less oxygen available for fish and plants, and pollutants become more concentrated, the government said. The government advises against using water from rivers and lakes, and also urges people to reduce activities such as fishing.

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