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Venice’s Floods: What You Need to Know

December 7, 2019

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Devastating. Disastrous. Threatening. These are not the adjectives we usually relate to Venice, Italy’s dream destination built on the Adriatic. But recent flooding has brought destruction to the famous city. With sea levels rising and natural disasters worsening, what does the future hold for beloved Venice?

In November, Venice’s residents and tourists saw the worst week of tides on record since 1872. Museums and other attractions have been closed from winds and storms, causing visitors to change plans and local residents to adapt.

In the History Books

As a city built on water, some level of flooding has always been a part of the Venetian calendar. Locals refer to the seasonal flood as acqua alta, or high water. But while Venice’s residents over a century ago experienced about seven “high water” days each year, current residents are living through almost one hundred.

In the 1960s, canals were excavated from the Malamocco port to Marghera for oil tankers. Many believe that this excavation caused damage to the city’s structure that has worsened the effects of the floods.

Another obvious contributor to the frequent flooding is the rising sea levels as a result of climate change. The city has become a sort of microcosm for environmental science researchers and justice advocates.

Venice is experiencing not only physical damage to infrastructure. Its population has decreased by about one-third since the last generation, and residential buildings and businesses have to adapt to rising water levels by closing off first-floor doors and windows. The financial burden on the city weighs heavier each year.

Will MOSE Part the Seas?

One solution was introduced and approved in 2003 – a multibillion-euro project referred to by the Italian acronym MOSE. (The name is also a gentle reference to Moses, a biblical character known for parting the Red Sea.) The project aims to build floodgates to control the tides. Environmental activists protested the construction due to fear of damaging the ecosystems there.

While the project went forward despite criticism, thirteen years later the gates are not finished. Some cite budgetary problems, corrupt leadership, and bureaucratic delay. And as the acqua alta grows more frequent and more destructive every year, the city is facing heavy costs for repairs, leaving even less funds for the project itself.

Get Involved

As world travelers and tourists, we understand the strong impact of investing in the local economies of our most beloved destinations. Here are a few ways you can contribute to the repairs and prevention of future devastation in Venice:

  1. Donate to this Immediate Response Fund by February 2020 and your donation will be matched by “Save Venice.” Funds go toward recovery of artistic and cultural heritage sites.
  2. Donate to this GoFundMe campaign to provide mini-grants for small businesses recovering from flood damage.
  3. Share information about the flooding and the donation campaigns on your social media accounts. Encourage your friends and family to contribute, especially during the holiday season.

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