Switzerland drains lakes ahead of predicted weekend rainfall

Switzerland drains lakes ahead of predicted weekend rainfall
A man jogs along Lake Geneva. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Ahead of another weekend of predicted rainfall, Switzerland is taking steps against further flooding.

Despite sunny weather across much of the country this week, Switzerland’s rivers, lakes and dams remain full after last week’s heavy rainfall. 

With more rain predicted for this weekend, Switzerland has set about draining as much water as possible out of the country’s lakes and into its rivers to ensure additional leeway. 

READ MORE: Heavy thunderstorms to return in Switzerland from Friday

Meteorological agency Meteonews has forecast over 100 litres of rain for the weekend. 

While this is less rain than much of Switzerland received last weekend, it is problematic as the soil is already sodden and cannot absorb much more water. 

This places additional pressure on the country’s lakes and river systems to disperse the excess water. 

“We need to empty the lakes as quickly as possible”

David Volken, hydrologist at the Federal Office for the Environment, told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes “we need to empty the lakes as quickly as possible”. 

“It will be weeks before the situation in the large rivers of the Central Plateau normalizes. The Aare, the Limmat, the Reuss and the High Rhine are affected,” he said. 

The water levels are particularly apparent in the Rhine, which starts out in the north of the country near Basel. 

“Normally at this time of year we have a discharge of 1,400 cubic meters per second. Now it’s still around twice as much,” he said. 

While water cannot be drained from Lake Constance, Volken said as much water as possible is currently being drained from Lake Biel, which in turn allows water to be drained from Lake Neuchâtel. 

“We don’t know how strong the rain will be, but we’re trying to create as much leeway as possible together with the cantons” he said. 

Despite no rainfall for several days, water levels have risen at some points this week in the Rhine. On Monday, the level in the Rhine rose by eight centimetres and then 19 centimetres. 

The reason for this, according to Volken, is that several power plants upstream have been dumping water into the Rhine and Aare river systems, which is expected to continue in the coming days. 


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