... it's riverine and inland waterway transport all over the world.
We've heard many reports in recent weeks about how barges are backed up on the Mississippi River, threatening exports of US grain, soybeans and other crops. For a useful summation of the present situation, click over to Old NFO's blog. He notes how current problems will affect future movements on the river, and what that implies for our economy.
However, the Mississippi is only one river. It's emerging that major rivers all over the world are suffering the same problem, threatening the movement of agricultural produce as well as other exports.
Water Politics notes that five of the largest and most important rivers in the world are under threat. The Indus River in Pakistan has just faced a mega flood, while the Yangtze River in China, the Colorado River here in the USA, and the Rhine and Po Rivers in Europe are suffering from droughts. Some of them have run dry in sections. That affects not just agriculture, but hydroelectric power generation, as well as transport of raw materials and finished products to and from factories along the rivers. It's a very interesting summation of what's going on, and I highly recommend reading it in full.
Nor are those rivers the only problem areas. Canada's St. Lawrence Seaway, which handles the export of much of the grain harvest from that country's central provinces, is also much lower than usual, with some sections up to 10 feet below normal for this time of year. If the trend continues, ships using the Seaway will have to carry less cargo, so that they draw less water - the same problem being faced by barges on the Mississippi.
South America isn't exempt. The Parana River, used to carry billions of dollars of agricultural produce from Argentina and Paraguay, has been in drought conditions since last year. Barges and ships are forced to carry less cargo, in order to get up and down the unusually shallow river. Several major dams, generating huge amounts of hydroelectric power, are also at very low levels, threatening electricity supply.
GCaptain sums it up in an article titled "Waterways And Lakes Are Evaporating Worldwide".
From California to Germany, heatwaves and droughts have shrunk rivers that feed reservoirs. Hydroelectricity output fell by 75 terrawatt-hours in Europe this year through September — more than the annual consumption of Greece — and fell 30% across China last month. In the US, generation is expected to fall to the lowest level in six years in September and October.
It’s a cruel irony that’s forcing utilities to reconsider the traditional role of hydropower as a reliable and instant source of green energy. Dams are the world’s largest source of clean energy, yet extreme weather is making them less effective in the battle against climate change.
The cycle is “a warning signal in terms of designing power systems,” said Wenxuan Xie, a managing consultant with Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “You really have to think about the possibilities of extreme events, and that perhaps what you once thought was extreme might happen more frequently.”
. . .
Dam operators must also balance competing requirements for their water. Large dams provide irrigation for crops, water supplies for cities and navigation for ships. The primary purpose of the Three Gorges Dam, for example, was to control the annual flooding of the Yangtze that periodically devastated towns and farms downstream. This summer, as drought reduced the flow of water into the river, the dam had to hold back enough water to maintain navigation to Chongqing, central China’s largest city which is almost 2,000 kilometers from the sea.
Lake Mead, the reservoir behind the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the Western US, provides 90% of Las Vegas’s water supply as well as feeding cities such as Los Angeles and irrigating hundreds of thousands of acres of crops.
There's more at the link.
There are those who believe that "The wars of the future will be fought over water not oil". One begins to see their point . . .