The river in the Verzasca valley dries up completely – in just 5 days

The river in the Verzasca valley dries up completely - in just 5 days
In Ticino, a mountain river in the Verzasca valley dried up in a matter of days. Not an isolated case, as one expert points out.

Sarah Matsky / Ester Bernasconi

There is hardly a better place in Ticino to cool off on a hot summer day than by the idyllic pool of a mountain river. But what if the river dries up completely within five days?

At the end of July it was very hot in Ticino, as it is the whole of Switzerland. So we decided to refresh ourselves on the last Sunday of the month in Sonogno, the last village in the Verzaska Valley, my family’s native place, at about 1’000 m altitude.

After a walk and lunch, we made our way along the Redorta River in search of the best place to take a dip in the water. Or at least to cool our feet.

We almost immediately found a nice pool which was already surrounded by some tourists. We also put down our towels and enjoyed the day. To share my relaxing moment with others, I took some pictures and put them on my social networks. My friends were a little jealous.

The river in the Verzasca valley dries up completely - in just 5 days
On Sunday, July 31, 2022, all was well with the world at the natural pool in Sonogno.

Sarah Matasci

A few days later a friend wrote to me. She had seen the pictures and five days later she went to Sonogno (her family is also from there) and wanted to do the same thing as me: get away from the heat in the mountains that pervades the plains. The mountain river contains the coolant.

But she was surprised when she reached the place I had visited five days ago on Sunday. Or rather: he was shocked. “I brought a bathing suit, but where’s the pool?” He wrote to me – and sent a picture.

The river in the Verzasca valley dries up completely - in just 5 days
Five days later, on August 5, such a sight was seen in the swimming area in Sonogno.

Aster Bernasconi

Not a single drop was left of the water I had splashed. We both couldn’t believe it and assumed that we had misunderstood the place. But it’s exactly the same: “behind the tracks, under the bridge,” and then we were face to face. No doubt we were at the right place.

Sure, the photos really speak for themselves: the plants and silhouettes of the mountains are alike, as are the stones. Only one detail was missing: water.

Once I was overcome with my incredible astonishment, I decided to get to the bottom of the matter. How is it possible that a pool of river dries up in such a short time? Is the scorching heat of the past few weeks and the resulting drought enough to explain this phenomenon?

I had so many questions that I decided to turn to a person who I hope can give me all the answers: I showed mauro veronesiHead of the Office of Water Conservation and Water Supply of the Canton of Ticino, photo.

What do you think about these two pictures?

They are symbolic photographs that well reflect the delicate situation in certain areas of the canton.

Is it normal for a river pond to dry up in a few days?

In torrential mountain streams, it is normal for the flow rate to fluctuate greatly depending on the amount of rainfall. Downstream from hydroelectric power plants, there are usually large daily fluctuations in the amount of water.

However, the fact that the river bed has completely dried up is a clear indication that there has been little or no rain this year. In addition, water reserves at higher altitudes have decreased due to lack of ice.

Are there other similar examples in Ticino?

Similar incidents occur in Mendrisioto. In particular, I would like to mention the Gaggiolo stream, which in some sections has completely dried up. The same applies to parts of Moesa (Misox, Graubunden, in Editor’s Note).

What is the explanation for this? Is it just summer?

The phenomenon can be attributed to a combination of several factors: lack of snowfall at high altitudes in winter, lack of rainfall in spring, heat waves and the tourist component, which increases water consumption.

How are the fish doing in Tessin’s watercourses?

The fish mainly suffer from high temperatures and a lack of deep pools to retreat to. Electrofishing was necessary in dry parts of the river to collect and save the fish.

For salmonids, especially trout, temperatures above 23 °C can be fatal. In Ticino, the composition of fish fauna has changed over the past 30 years, with a progressive increase in species that tolerate higher temperatures at the expense of more vulnerable species such as trout.

In which areas of Ticino is drought particularly pronounced?

The situation is somewhat mixed, with Mendrisioto being the hardest hit at the moment.

How can the problem be solved?

In the area of ​​water supply, the canton plans and supports the networking of municipal water pipes, promotes the exchange of water and the construction of joint works. The severe water scarcity situation, which we are facing at present and which is likely to become more frequent in future, will help in accelerating these projects.

What can the population do to limit the damage?

At home, we can help keep consumption to a minimum, not leaving water running unnecessarily, for example in the shower, or by fully loading the dishwasher.

In the garden, say goodbye to the idea of ​​the English lawn and instead use drought-resistant seeds that require less water and fewer pesticides, which also benefits biodiversity.

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