Bringing the Ocean to Society
20 Mar 2020
How deep do you think the Venice canals are?
The water is now clear enough to see fish as coronavirus halts tourism in the Italian city.

As reported by ABC News, the coronavirus pandemic has had an unexpected side effect in Venice, where the normally murky canals have transformed into water crystal clear enough to see fish swimming below. Italy's tourism industry came to a screeching halt once the number of coronavirus cases began to spike in the country, but those who remain have been posting to social media images of the traffic-less canals.

However, the transparent water is not so much a sign of better water quality. It is the result of the lack of boat traffic, which typically kicks sediment to the surface, Pierpaolo Campostrini, the managing director for the Consortium for Managing Scientific Research on Venice Lagoon System, told.

"The low turbidity of the water does not mean cleanliness," Campostrini said. "The transparency is due to the absence of sediment resuspension."

The cold temperature of the water also plays a part, Campostrini said. At about 13,8º C, there is little synthesis of organic compounds from carbon dioxide, which doesn't begin until about 16,7º C.

It's likely that the air quality has improved since "every kind of pollutants decreased a lot," but a chemical analysis would need to be performed to say so for sure, Campostrini added.

Amid the crisis, the clear water is a small reprieve for Venice, which just months ago experienced flooding by the highest acqua alta (storm surge) in more than 50 years, causing inestimable damage to this unique city.

Photo by AFP via Getty Images