Amazon River Port Water Levels Drop to 121-year Record Low

October 16, 2023

© Matyas Rehak / Adobe Stock
© Matyas Rehak / Adobe Stock

The water level at a major river port in Brazil's Amazon rainforest hit its lowest point in at least 121 years on Monday, as a historic drought upends the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and damages the jungle ecosystem.

Rapidly drying tributaries to the mighty Amazon river have left boats stranded, cutting off food and water supplies to remote jungle villages, while high water temperatures are suspected of killing more than 100 endangered river dolphins.

The port in Manaus, the region's most populous city located where the Negro river meets the Amazon river, recorded a water level of 13.59 meters (44.6 ft) on Monday, according to its website. That is the lowest level since records began in 1902, passing a previous all-time low set in 2010.

After months without rain, Amazon rainforest villager Pedro Mendonca was relieved when a Brazilian NGO delivered supplies to his riverside community near Manaus late last week.

"We have gone three months without rain here in our community," said Mendonca, who lives in Santa Helena do Ingles, west of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state. "It is much hotter than past droughts."

Some areas of the Amazon have seen the lowest rain levels from July to September since 1980, according to the Brazilian government disaster alert center Cemaden.

Brazil's Science Ministry blames the drought on this year's onset of the climate phenomenon El Nino, which is driving extreme weather patterns globally. In a statement earlier this month, the ministry said it expects the drought will last until at least December, when El Nino's effects are forecast to peak.

The drought has affected 481,000 people as of Monday, according to the civil defense agency in the state of Amazonas, where Manaus is located.

Late last week, workers from Brazilian NGO Fundacao Amazonia Sustentavel (FAS) fanned out across the parched region near Manaus to deliver food and other supplies to vulnerable village communities. The drought has threatened their access to food, drinking water and medicines, which are usually transported by river.

Nelson Mendonca, a leader in Santa Helena do Ingles, said although some areas are still reachable by canoe, many boats have not been able to travel on the river to bring supplies, and goods are being transported by tractors or on foot.

"It's not very good for us, because we're practically isolated," he said.

Luciana Valentin, who also lives in Santa Helena do Ingles, said she is concerned about the cleanliness of the local water supply after the drought reduced water levels.

"Our children are getting diarrhea, vomiting, and often having fever because of the water," she said.


(Reuters - Reporting by Bruno Kelly and Jake Spring; Editing by Steven Grattan and Marguerita Choy)

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