Bonn · The low water level in the Rhine at the level of the Rheinauenpark in Bonn currently reveals a strange phenomenon. The water is bubbling quite strongly there. The Water and Shipping Authority has published some information explaining what that is all about.
When Kay-Enno Andrews walked along the banks of the Rhine at the weekend, he discovered a special phenomenon in the water. Although the river does not carry much water at the moment, there is something bubbling in the river – and quite strongly too. Andrews describes the phenomenon as follows: "The ‚whirlpool‘ was about 60 to 70 centimetres high and had a diameter of just over a metre."
The water level of the Rhine in Bonn is currently around 180 centimetres, which is well below the average of 351 centimetres. Hydrologist Jan Böhme from the Water and Shipping Authority calls it "medium low water". This is not yet critical for shipping. On Saturday, the river had nevertheless retreated a good 40 metres from the usual shore line. What came to light looked almost like an underwater geyser. But Andrews did not want to believe this and sent photos to the editorial office of the General-Anzeiger.
No geyser and no new source of the Rhine
However, no new Rhine spring has opened up in the roughly knee-deep water, as one expert joked. The solution to the mystery is rather of an everyday nature. At the place described, approximately at the level of the Kameha Hotel, the outlet of the Bad Godesberg sewage plant is located, as the city of Bonn explains.
The Water and Shipping Office in Duisburg, which is responsible for the waterway, also confirmed that the photos show the location of an "outlet". Dirty water is not discharged into the Rhine at this point, says press spokeswoman Valeska Bergmann. "Before water is fed into the river in this way, it is purified," she says. The water discharge of the city of Bonn is shown on maps and approved.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of speculation about these whirlpools. Years ago, the authorities heard of citizens who claimed they had once seen whales.
The water police also took a closer look at the photos. The bubbling water does not pose a danger to shipping. There is also no danger for the environment. The water is clear and has ambient temperature. However, it might be risky for people swimming in the Rhine. Swimming and splashing around in the Rhine is prohibited almost everywhere anyway. But even where there are no bans, it is not advisable to go into the Rhine under any circumstances, says Stefan Hausch of the Duisburg water police, which is also responsible for Bonn.
Whoever approaches the bubbling water risks drowning
Even at this point, where the water is currently barely half a metre deep, danger is looming. The authorities have repeatedly pointed this out. According to their statement, the Rhine flows at a speed of three to twelve kilometres per hour, depending on water level and location.
Again and again, there are fatal swimming accidents. One reason for this is that swimmers do not notice the power of the water until they are caught by the current. The warning is very clear: "You will not make it back to shore against the current!" The suction and wave action caused by passing ships is often underestimated.
When ships pass by, dangerous situations occur time and again, even in knee-deep water and at supposedly safe shore areas. According to the water police, the suction and wave impact can be so strong that even adults can be pulled into the current - even if the ship is more than 100 metres away. Nevertheless, year after year there are swimmers who ignore this warning. Between January and July 2019 alone, 14 people drowned in the Rhine according to DLRG data.
Original text: Anja Wollschlaeger
Translation: Mareike Graepel