Flooding in Venice
The flooding of St Mark’s Square in June 2014 in Venice, Italy.

Venice is known for old cathedrals, Renaissance art, scenic bridges, and canals. But when high tides cause those canals to overflow, life in the Italian city gets a bit less picturesque.

Silvestri: “It’s not pleasant to have water inside your restaurant or inside your shop.”

Sonia Silvestri of the University of Padua says Venice is surrounded by a coastal lagoon, so it’s always had occasional floods.

But sea levels have risen and the land has also been sinking. So now, high tides are more likely to flood sidewalks and buildings. The problem will only get worse as seas continue to rise.

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To protect Venice, the city is installing huge gates across the three inlets connecting the lagoon to the Adriatic Sea. When an extremely high tide is forecast, the gates will close, sealing the inlets.

Silvestri: “The idea is to disconnect the lagoon from the sea so the high water will stay outside.”

Silvestri says the project will protect Venice against rising sea levels at least to the end of the century.

It’s a massive and expensive undertaking, but she says action is necessary to keep this city, and its treasures, above water.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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