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Dry Canals: Paris on purpose, Venice by low tides


Two European cities are facing dry seasons in their canals, with record low tides exposing long-unseen areas of Venice's waterways, and Paris draining its iconic Canal Saint-Martin for cleaning and repairs.

In Venice, abnormal tides this year, combined with a so-far dry winter, have left water levels about 70cm (more than 2 feet) below normal. As a result, routes for the city's vaporetti, or water buses, have been curtailed because they are unable to navigate in some of the smaller canals.

Other water traffic has also been disrupted, including the mayor's speedboat. A city official told the newspaper La Nuova Venezia that "In winter low tides are common, but these levels are way below normal. It's a small record." Levels are not expected to rise fully for weeks.

The low water levels have also exposed poor maintenance, including crumbling brickwork at the base of historic buildings and big banks of mud and silt along the banks. In recent years, money has been diverted from canal maintenance to completion of the "Mose" project that is supposed to protect the city from rising sea levels.

During the 2011 clean-up

During the 2011 cleanup of Canal Saint-Martin

In Paris, the dry spell is intended; the Canal Saint-Martin, in northeast Paris, hasn't had a thorough cleaning since 1999, although some work was done in 2001 and 2011. The canal area has become a trendy hangout in recent years, with BoBo (bourgeois bohemian) cafes replacing warehouses and industry along its path. With the crowds have come more trash in the water and more complaints about smells.

The cleaning will take about four months, from the start (which includes removing fish to areas that will still be underwater) to the clearing of debris and silt, and the re-watering of the canal in time for the summer cafe-and-tourism season.

For more on the Venice story, click HERE for; for more news and pictures on the Paris project, click HERE for


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