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Climate Adaptation

Germany’s Most Important River Is Drying Out

  • Germany experiencing driest April since records began
  • Industrial goods face being held up at key chokepoints
A barge navigates the Rhine in Kaub, on Oct. 17, 2018.
A barge navigates the Rhine in Kaub, on Oct. 17, 2018.Photo: Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images
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Germany’s spring showers haven’t materialized this year, and that’s drying out the country’s most important river, prompting concerns that key industrial goods might have trouble making it to their destination.

Typically one of the wettest months, Europe’s biggest economy has received just 5% of its normal April rainfall so far, according to Germany’s federal weather service. It’s on course to be the driest month since records began in 1881.

In addition to yellowing vegetation that’s usually a lush green in this season, the dry spell has depressed water levels on the Rhine River, a conduit for barges delivering everything from steel to oil and coal to Germany’s factories. The river is now at its lowest level for the end of April since 2011.

“If we don’t get more normal rain in May, then we’re looking at another year of serious drought conditions,” said Andreas Friedrich of Germany’s DWD federal weather service.