Drought shuts Flemish Waterways for pleasure sailing

boats on canal before drought shuts flemish waterways

Leisure sailing is no longer possible on many Belgian Flanders waterways, including places such as Ghent, as the ongoing drought has effectively shut the Flemish waterways to pleasure craft

“Pleasure craft are only to be used together with commercial craft,” says a statement from Flemish Waterways. “In concrete terms, this means that pleasure craft are no longer possible on waterways with very little or no commercial shipping.”

This means leisure boats are only allowed to pass through locks when commercial vessels are also going through.

The measure took effect from 22 August 2022. The organisation says the policy will run for as long as necessary but that recreational boats were able to pass through the locks for a few days prior to the restriction in order to reach their home port.

It’s come as a result of lowering water levels in the region. Flemish Waterways says that during long periods of drought, the water level in watercourses can drop, and if this water level drops too much, water extraction from that watercourse can be stopped.

“We have decided that pleasure boats will only be able to pass through the locks with commercial navigation. Depending on where the commercial traffic is, this will have an impact,” Liliane Stinissen, spokesperson for the Flemish Waterways, said. “Smaller canals, where there is no commercial traffic, will not be blocked.”

The drought shutting Flemish waterways was motivated by the persistent heat of this summer and a dry spring that made the flow of Flemish waterways very low. The rainfall of the last few days and the expected rainfall will not be enough to restore the water resources, according to the organisation.

Travel Tomorrow reports stricter measures are being considered to reduce water consumption in Flanders from September. A consultation has already been started with the sectors (agriculture, industry, construction) on what they could save. This brings together water managers, drinking water companies, Aquafin (wastewater treatment) and the provincial governors. Meanwhile, the drought commission continues to reiterate its advice to sectors, governments and citizens to ‘minimise’ their water consumption.

Belga (news agency) reports that long waiting times are expected on the Bocholt-Herentals Canal, Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten Canal, South Willem’s Canal, Briegden-Neerharen Canal, Dijle Canal, Plassendale-Nieuwpoort Canal, Ijzer Canal, Dender (Aalst lock), Leuven-Dijle Canal and the Charleroi Canal.

According to Belga, foreign visitors’ overnight stays in Flanders doubled in July 2022 compared to last year, especially in cities such as Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, and Leuven.

The data shows that Flanders Tourism expects the number of overnight stays during the first month of the summer holidays to be 27 per cent higher than in July 2021.

This news follows MIN’s report that the drought has exposed WW2 wrecks in the Danube, while over in the US, Lake Mead continues to shrink at an alarming rate.

Main image courtesy of Visit Ghent.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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