A recent news article published in the CNN states that the world’s rivers are drying up from extreme weather.
The human-caused climate crisis
To be stuck “up a river without a paddle” is an expression for a sticky situation you just can’t get out of. But if that river happens to be in the northern hemisphere this summer, it’s likely the paddle won’t be helpful, anyway.
The Colorado River is drying up at its banks and thinning out, as a historic drought in the US West shows little sign of abating. The river is crucially maintained by two of the country’s largest reservoirs, and to safeguard the river basin, the government has implemented mandatory water cuts and asked states to come up with additional action plans.
One of those reservoirs, Lake Mead, is shrinking in size as water levels drop toward “dead pool” status — the point at which the reservoir won’t be high enough to release water downstream through a dam. Its water levels have been on a downward trend since 2000, but have had a sharper drop since 2020. The lake has dropped so low in the past year that wild discoveries have been made, including human remains in a barrel — a suspected homicide victim from decades ago. And the consequences of the Colorado River crisis are enormous: Around 40 million people in seven states and Mexico rely on the river’s water for drinking, agriculture and electricity.
The Yangtze River
The Yangtze River in Asia is drying up at its banks and its bed is emerging in some areas. But it’s the Yangtze’s tributaries that are already intensely parched. China has announced a nationwide drought alert for the first time in nine years, and its heat wave is its longest in six decades.
The impact of the drying Yangtze has been enormous. In Sichuan, a province of 84 million people, hydropower makes up about 80% of electricity capacity. Much of that comes from the Yangtze River, and as its flow slows down, power generation has dwindled, leaving authorities there to order all its factories shut for six days. The province is seeing around half the rain it usually does and some reservoirs have dried up entirely, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The Rhine River
The River Po
The Loire River
The Danube River
The Danube is Western Europe’s longest river and a crucial shipping channel that passes through 10 countries. In Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria, workers are dredging the river just to ensure vessels can still navigate it.
It’s not in as dire a condition as some of Europe’s other rivers, but countries like Hungary are so reliant on the Danube for tourism, the impacts are already being felt. Some cruise ships have been unable to pass parts of the river to even reach Hungary. Those that are still running can’t stop on their normal routes because so many stations have had to close as water levels on river banks fall. An average 1,600-ton vessel can now only navigate the Hungarian stretch without any cargo, according to the country’s tourist board.
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