Firefighters welcomed the rain that fell over large parts of Southern Norway during the weekend, but it wasn’t nearly enough to significantly reduce the danger of forest fires or ease Norway’s drought. Now concerns are rising over low and sinking water levels in local lakes and rivers.
“We fortunately got a bit of rain, but we need more,” Stian Frislie, who works for emergency services for Telemark County, told state broadcaster NRK. “There’s still great danger of forest fires.”
Colleagues farther south in Agder finally gained control on Sunday over a fire at Birkenes, while others were sparked in Seljord, Porsgrunn, and Vinje in Telemark. Still more fires sprung up in Sirdal to the west and Sogn og Fjordane to the north.
The rain that fell mostly on Saturday night also brought some lightning that set off some of the new fires. In other areas, including the northern areas of Nordmarka in the Oslo area, the rain came before and even without lightning and thunder.
“The precipitation was variable,” said state meteorologist Kristen Gislefoss. “Some areas got a lot of rain, while others got very little, and it just evaporated.” There was a bit of rain in the forecast on Monday but not much more for the rest of this week.
Low lake levels
Concerns were turning on Monday to the declining water levels in lakes and rivers in Southern Norway. Many local communities rely on their lakes for both drinking water and farming, but levels are way below normal because of the recent heat and lack of rain.
The large lake Vansjø in Østfold County just outside Moss is 55 centimeters lower than normal. That’s threatening farmers like Øyvind Paulshus, whose vegetable fields rely on water from Vansjø. It has sunk to a point where only 10 more centimeters of water remain above the intake valve for Paulshus’ watering system.
“We’re more used to Vansjø spilling over its banks, but this year it’s so dry that Vansjø is sinking a full centimeter every day,” Paulshus told NRK. “That can mean problems for our water supply.”
Major rivers down, too
Norway’s state waterways agency NVE reports that Vansjø is far from the only lake that’s sunk below normal this summer. Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake that extends from Lillehammer south to Minnesund, is 26 centimeters below normal, while Storsjøen in Odalen is down by 55 centimeters.
The Begna River in Valdres, which feeds water down from the mountains and usually offers good fishing, is fully 70 centimeters lower than normal. The major Glomma River is down 65 centimeters at Norsfoss in Hedmark, with consequences for all the lakes it feeds.
Gislefos wasn’t giving up hopes of more rain, noting that “we’re moving into a more unstable period of weather. We can get some heavy downpours that don’t show up in long-term forecasts.” Temperatures were also lower on Monday, but until there’s any sustained period of rain, water restrictions remain in place in most towns and cities.