Lowest water level ever on the Rhine draws ever nearer

At Lobith, the Rhine is only a few centimetres away from its lowest water level ever. On 29 October 2018, the river at Lobith sank to a water level of 6.49 metres above sea level. The Rhine is now at a level of 6.53 metres in the same place. According to Rijkswaterstaat, this level will drop even further in the coming days because not much rain is expected in the river basin.

In the middle of the summer, it is exceptional for the water level to reach an extremely low level. Normally, the water level during this period is around 8.70 metres above sea level. In autumn, however, this usually happens, as no meltwater from the Alps enters the river.

The Rhine water discharge at Lobith will drop to 650M3 per second by the end of the week. That is also very close to the lowest discharge ever measured at this time of year. For inland navigation, this is an important fact, because the water level does not always say something about the amount of water available. The water level can change over the years due to changes in the shape and channel of the river.

Cristel de Zwaan, river consultant at the Netherlands Water Management Centre, explains that the river can be compared to a pan. “In a wide pan, one litre of water is lower than in a narrow pan, but there is just as much water in both”. “Skippers and water managers therefore also prefer to know how much water there is.” That there will be little water coming to Lobith in the coming days is also evident from reports by the water management authorities in Germany. They indicated on Tuesday that the water level of the Rhine near Emmerich has dropped below the level of the dipstick. There is still about two metres of water flowing through the channel.