Lake Neusiedlersee, Austria:
Part II - Limnology of the Neusiedlersee
Since the 17th century, the lake has fallen dry several times - in between two dry periods, it reached a record surface of 515 square kilometres in 1768, forcing local farmers to move away. Whenever the lake dried out, there were attempts to use the new land for agriculture. In the 19th century, rice was planted in the mud. However, due to the high salinity of the soil, most plants did not survive or grow very well. In 1838, there were attempts to build canals so that the Neusiedlersee would remain permanently dry.
This should end the risk of floods, but was given up for financial reasons. The construction of the necessary canals proved too expensive, and the local fishermen surely did not like the project either. The Einserkanal was opened in 1909, triggering the massive growth of reed mentioned before. The last serious attempts to remove the water from Lake Neusiedlersee - in fact, the most serious ever - came in 1918, when the landlord Prince Esterhazy and investors decided to build the necessary drainages. This plan was only halted because the Burgenland became part of Austria in 1921.
After the cession of the Neusiedlersee from its Hungarian motherland, local hunters, farmers, and fishermen prevented the drainage project. Another large-scale project for regulating the water level was stopped by environmentalists in 1938. In 2003, a very hot summer caused a drastic fall in the water level. As a result, experts of the BOKU were requested to assess the future of the lake. These experts predict that between 2010 and 2050, the Neusiedlersee would gradually dry out if not artificial sources of water intake can be generated.
Water Sports & Weather at the Neusiedlersee
The Neusiedlersee is popular for swimming, especially among Viennese. It is noteworthy that its temperature adjusts to the temperature of the surrounding air very quickly - due to the shallowness of the lake. On very hot days, the water can get up to 30 degrees Celsius. Average temperatures during the summer months would be rather 22 to 23 degrees. Gentle currents in the Neusiedlersee run in a clockwise direction.
Climatically, the Neusiedlersee region is ideal for vineyards and tourism: Only 600 millimetres of annual rainfall (my hometown Salzburg comes with a juicy 1,400 millimetres), the average year sees sun on 300 days. The sheer size of the Neusiedlersee allows the development of strong winds and relatively high waves, ideal conditions for sailing, kite- and windsurfing.
People that do water sports on the Neusiedlersee are advised not to underestimate the dangers of the shallow lake: You might be able to stand in many spots when the weather is good, but the shallowness allows strong waves to form when the wind gets strong. Every year, there are people drowning in the Neusiedlersee because they fail to return to land during storms.
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