The record-breaking heatwave sent water levels on the Rhine, one of Europe’s most important rivers, to “abnormally low” and continued to decline. There are warnings that if the water level drops to 40 centimeters, the Rhine will be unable to transport key raw materials, which will make Europe’s energy crisis worse.
German authorities said the Rhine’s bottleneck point, Kaub, dropped to 77 centimeters last week, its lowest level since 2007, Business Insider and others reported. The water level further dropped to 71 cm on the 19th.
German media SWR said low water levels had restricted shipping on the Rhine south of Duisburg and Cologne, with ships unable to sail with full cargo for several days. The Federal Institute of Hydrology said that if the water level drops to 40 cm, the ship can only carry very little cargo at this time, and it will be uneconomical for cargo ships to sail through Kaub.
The Rhine carries coal, crude oil, chemicals, agricultural products and other raw materials to and from Europe, and the low water level has impacted the energy supply. The EEX exchange pointed out that since July 13, the coal supply of two power plants in Germany has been hit.
Europe is in the midst of a power supply crisis, and Russia has slashed its natural gas supply, sending European energy prices soaring. Whether the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which transports Russian natural gas to Germany, will resume supply on the 21st is still uncertain, causing concern to the outside world.
Germany briefly fell into recession at the end of 2018, and foreign investors believe that the low water level of the Rhine is the culprit. Pantheon Macroeconomics reported in January 2019 that the sharp drop in the water level of the Rhine caused a sharp drop in key items needed by the manufacturing industry, triggering a supply shock in the German manufacturing industry.