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Why is Venice Flooding?

Flooding in St Marks Venice

The flooding in Venice has been getting dramatically worse over the last ten years.

There has always been flooding, caused by spring and autumn high tides combined with the bora and sirocco winds, but never with the frequency and intensity of recent times.

Is somebody to blame? Well, yes and no.

A lot of people instantly say it is global warming and, while that may be a part of the problem, most of the issues stem from other manmade interventions over the years. Some of the most significant being:

  • The building of a deep channel for oil tankers to reach Maghera.
  • Expanding Maghera itself, which entailed the removal of various small islands that acted as sponges.
  • Connecting Venice to the mainland with the rail/road bridge.
  • Building a car and bus terminal at the end of the bridge on the Venice side.
  • Diverting the Brenta River - the river used to soak up extra water during high tides.

The decision to persist with cruise ships is another factor.

Despite many organizations - including UNESCO - warning of the damage being caused to the Venetian Lagoon the economic benefits were put before the future of Venice itself.

What is the problem with cruise ships in Venice?

Well, the wake of huge ships passing close to the city undermines the very foundations of Venice.

Some good news.

Action has now been taken to limit the size of cruise ships entering into Venice via the Giudecca Canal and the Bacino di San Marco (the area that passes by St Marks Square).

It is still not enough.

Many fairly large ships still enter the lagoon - both cruise ships and commercial ships.

The other problem is that Venice is slowly SINKING. Once, they believed this was caused by the extraction of ground water.

They stopped the extraction. The sinking continues.

Venice's Plan to Stop Flooding

Venice's hopes now rests on the MOSE: the hugely expensive flood barrier designed to protect Venice.

It was a project conceived in the1980s and finally approved in 2003. Ever since then it has been beset by cost overruns, seemingly endless delays, political interference and arrests for corruption and fraud.

Now, it is operating... in a test phase. It may be a year or more before it is fully operational.

The MOSE barrier won't stop minor floods so scenes of flooding in St Marks Square will always occur. What the barrier is supposed to do is stop the severe flooding that has become significantly worse over the last few decades. Six of the ten highest tides ever recorded occurred in this period.

However, the risks remain.

The MOSE flood barrier can only operate for short periods as tidal flow is needed to keep the lagoon healthy. Therefore, if there should be a long term rise in water levels, which many experts are predicting, then the MOSE will not be the solution.

Perhaps it is too late to save Venice? Perhaps, whatever we do there is no way to stop Venice sinking below the waters of the Adriatic.

I hope not.

I really believe every effort must be made to save one of the greatest manmade wonders of the world.

A Few Questions Answered About Venice Flooding 

Question: Which months does Venice flood?

Answer: Historically, the worst months have been November, December and February although flooding can occur in other months too.

Question: What is the Italian name for Venice flooding?

Answer: Acqua Alta, which means high water.

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