Acqua Bassa, the water ‘issue’ you never thought Venice could have

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    Venetians witnessed the lowest tides or 'acqua bassa' in Venice in the past 16 years

    Canal in Cannaregio, Venice, during the exceptional acqua bassa during winter 2016/2017

    At the time we write this piece (3/1/2017) many were relieved that no “Acqua Alta” had been forecasted during the holidays, yet Venice has been facing another water-related problem these days: exceptional low tides or “acqua bassa”!

    Edit: It happened again on the 31/01/18 and the previous days

    What's acqua bassa?

    “Acqua bassa” or low water/tide is the twin sister of Venice’s most known phenomenon “acqua alta” or high water/tide. The same way the high tide, “acqua alta”, is a natural phenomenon which is usually of no harm, but is mentioned in case of exceptional high waters, the “acqua bassa” is a natural phenomenon connected to the movement of the tides. “Acqua bassa” usually creates no real issues, except for rare times, like it has been in the past days.

    How long does acqua bassa last?

    Like the “acqua alta”, the “acqua bassa” last for few hours, the time for the tide to grow again.

    What are the different 'tide' hights?

    According to Venice’s “Istituzione Centro Maree” the different kind of tides, are the given:

    • Exceptional High Tide:  Equal to or higher than +140
    • Very High Tide : from +110 to +139
    • High Tide:  from +80 to +109
    • Normal Tide:  from – 5o  to +79
    • Tide under the normal level: from -90 to -51
    • Exceptional low tides: Lower than -90

    How low was the acqua bassa in Venice?

    In the last days of December 2016, the “acqua bassa” hit a record of – 66 cm under the sea level

    Edit: On the 31/01/18 , a new acqua bassa was recorded at – 65 cm under the sea level

    What are the consequences of such an acqua bassa?

    Canals in Venice have an average depth of 2 to 3 meters, but narrower canals are often much shallower. During these days, tides are so exceptionally low, that some smaller canals end up completely dry, and even some main canals can become a hazard for bigger boats. Transportations of people and goods can, therefore, be impaired or interrupted, potentially temporary impacting most of the activities of the city, happening by waterways.

    How low was the greatest acqua bassa ever recorded in Venice?

    The lowest “acqua bassa” ever recorded in Venice was, to our knowledge, -121cm. It happened on the 14th of February 1934.

    Is such an acqua bassa common? When was the latest important 'acqua bassa'?

    Really low tides are not a common phenomenon: before the “acqua bassa” of December 2016, the latest recorded “acqua bassa” happened in 2008, 8 years before.

    Edit: It happened again in 2018…

    Photos kindly provided to Venezia Autentica by Maurizio Rossi, Roberto Fagarazzi, Roberto Spinelli, Alessandro Pompeo and Agron Gjelaj.

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