Record low tide dries Venice's famous canals

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Record low tides in Venice are making life difficult for the city's boatmen. Photo: Chris Chabot
12:32 CET+01:00
Record low water levels in Venice are making life difficult for the city's boatmen and exposing years of neglect to the city's canals.

The famous waterways of Venice have slowly been drying up over the festive period and water levels are some 70cm below average for this time of year.

The exceptionally water levels have been caused by abnormal tides this year, combined with drastically reduced winter precipitation rates across northeastern Italy, La Nuova Venezia reported.

The drop in water levels has prevented some of the city's gondolas and vaporetti, or water buses, from navigating in some of the smaller canals. On Christmas Eve, the low tide even grounded the mayor's speedboat.

Since then, the level of water has dropped another 10cm and experts say the water level will not rise until the end of the week.

“In winter low tides are common,” a city council tidal officer told La Nuova Venezia. “But these levels are way below normal: it's a small record.”

Along Venice's main thoroughfare, the Grand Canal, the exceptionally low tide has exposed years of poor maintenance on the city's waterways, revealing crumbling brickwork at the base of historic buildings and exposing large banks of mud and silt around the canals' edges.

While the record low tide is down to natural factors, failure to upkeep the canals has made the situation dangerous for boats.

A lack of dredging and high volume of litter means that low water volumes in the city's waterways massively increases the likelihood of propellers snagging on floating junk.

In recent years, Venice city council has spent much less on canal maintenance as it races to finish the €5.4 billion 'Mose' floodgate which has been built across the entrance to the lagoon in a bid to protect the historic city from rising sea levels.

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