For DW business writers in Bonn a look out of their office windows sometimes suffices to realize the current state of affairs of the German economy. Close by, the Rhine river gently flows and the bustling boat traffic has come to be a good sign of economic activity in the country. When commercial traffic is heavy and the boats are full, the economy is humming along nicely.
Last year, however, the river’s business indicator sent out a warning signal as the hot summer of 2018 caused water levels to drop to an extent that boat traffic ground to a halt for the first time in living memory. The historic shutdown is said to have shaved 0.2% off Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, and unusually low water hampered cargo traffic from August to December.
This year, those conditions could be repeated. Extreme heat in mid-July caused water levels at Kaub — a critical chokepoint near Frankfurt — to fall to about 150 centimeters (59 inches), half the depth from just a month ago. Movements of the heaviest barges are already restricted, and all river cargo could again cease if the level falls below 50 centimeters.
The Rhine’s record low water level of 2018 not only brought ancient shipwrecks into the daylight, but also showed companies’ dependence on the important waterway, too
The Rhine is critical to commerce in all of Europe. The continent’s most important waterway snakes 1,233 kilometers (800 miles) through industrial zones in Switzerland, Germany…