Emajõgi River water levels highest in a decade, flood risk remains low
Water levels in Tartu's Emajõgi River are currently at their highest over the last decade for this time of year. However, they remain 30 centimeters below critical levels and forecasts suggest that Tartu will not flood this year.
According to the Estonian Environmental Board, water levels in Tartu's Emajõgi River reached 220 centimeters on Wednesday. The critical limit, at which flooding may occur, is 254 centimeters.
"It shouldn't be the case that anything really critical happens when that limit is reached. However, certain infrastructure would definitely be affected," said Tanel Toots of the Environmental Board's hydrology department.
According to Toots, this may involve water flowing onto the sidewalks in certain areas, and even getting close to reaching some residential buildings in lower-lying areas of the city.
After the river flooded in 2010, a series of measures were taken to help prevent potential future issues. The City of Tartu built dams to hold back the water as well as sluices, which better enable the flow of excess water to be controlled.
Haak, head of the Tartu government's City Economy Department said, that the city also has a water pump and a contract with an organization, which helps ensure things stay under control.
"We also now have a smaller pump, which is in good working order. Metaphorically speaking, we can just put the batteries in and then start it up, so we can begin pumping the water at Supilinn."
If the water levels do exceed the critical limit, the first area of the city to be affected would be Supilinn. After that, Ülejõe tänav, Liiva tänav and Vana-Ihaste tänav would be next.
"A more serious issue would then arise in relation to the ditch, through which water flows out of Supilinn. It is next to the Supilinn pond, so the sluice would have to be closed (if the water reached) 254 centimeters, to prevent the Emajõgi River from flowing towards Supilinn. Then after a certain point, we would also have to start pumping water over the dam," Haak explained.
At the moment, some of the pedestrian tunnels alongside the river are underwater.
Rising water levels in the river are not only due to rainfall. Rapid increases in air temperature also have an impact, as do the higher than usual water reserves, which have come about as a result of there being more snow than in previous years, Toots said.
Toots added, that the drier weather, which is forecast for next week should also help bring water levels in the Emajõgi back down.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Michael Cole