The Sinking City


Allie Ward

The historic city of Venice, Italy becoming overtaken by flooding waters (Photo courtesy of Mallory Smith, photo credits to Allie Ward).

The historic city of Venice, Italy has become commonly known as “The Sinking City” due to the continuous flooding, leaving more than 80% of the city underwater. Because of this, the population that used to be about 53,000 people has decreased to about 803. The constant fear of this flooding has led to Venice being practically uninhabitable and has driven almost everyone out of the city. Venetians were struck with tide levels rising three times within the week of November 20, 2019. Each time the waters rose, it was higher than the previous tide, causing the third rise to be record breaking.

“The rising water may lead to further structural damage to the city and I believe they will continue to rise only to fall back down as the climate cycles,” said senior Joseph Gibson.

Venice is built on a marsh located at the end of a lagoon, so it is important to be aware of all natural measures. Citizens are familiar with flooding, as they call it “acqua alta,” meaning high water. Acqua alta used to be very uncommon, but now it is the opposite as experts claim it is resulting from climate change. Climate change has caused sea levels to rise significantly causing more and more tides to pour into the city. 

“The water may mess up houses and individuals belongings. Also, sites that are heavy tourist attractions may be damaged, causing the city to possibly appear trashy and ruined,” said Woodmont High School junior Noah Couch.

As water takes over the city, more and more of it is at risk for damage. Buildings that are a part of the Venice culture and history may crumble into ruins as the filth and salt flows into the structural materials. These monuments, along with any building, might crack, expand, bubble, and possibly even explode. Venice cannot attempt to replace current material with stronger material to withhold against the floods because then the preciousness of the history may be taken away if they do so. If buildings fall, then the history and beauty that lies within the architecture may be lost as well.

“They could build levees to prevent the overflow of water in the rivers or canals,” said J.L. Mann High School senior Kaylee Wolf.

A few years ago, Venice began tackling this problem. They drew up a plan involving an “underwater fortress of steel designed to rise up from the depths during high tides to protect the lagoon city of Venice.” They have slowly been working on this project since 2003 and originally sought out to be finished in 2011, but now the project isn’t showing signs of being completed until 2021. However, the $6 billion project still remains incomplete, leaving Venetians to wonder if it might ever get done as water levels keep rising. 

“This would allow them to retain a steady water level,” added Gibson.

Venice thrives off of its tourist economy. It is home to many priceless works and pieces of art and basilicas all from the Italian Renaissance era that people from all over the world travel to see. As flooding becomes a bigger and bigger problem, people won’t want to risk trudging through knee high water to visit those attractions. As a result, Venice will lose its tourist income, possibly causing the economy to fall under as well.

“It’ll decrease the amount of tourism which will be bad for their economy because they are somewhat dependent on tourism,” added Wolf.