How does Poland combat drought?

Traditionally,  17 June  is celebrated around the world as the World Day to Combat Desertification & Drought.

small water retention fields with a dike
©A.Galica

On this occasion we would like to recall the webinar organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherland in Warsaw on 8 June 2020 on water retention plans in Poland. During the webinar the following Polish speakers gave an overview of the drought situation and water investments planned by the government.

Joanna Kopczyńska

Deputy Vice President at State Water Holdings - Polish Waters, the main administrative body and main investor in Polish water management created through reform of water law in 2018. Polish Waters aims to protect Polish residents against floods and droughts, provide sustainable water management to protect water resources and ensure good water quality.

Dr. hab. Artur Magnuszewski

Associate professor at the University of Warsaw, part of the faculty of Geography and Regional Studies and Chair of Physical Geography. Expert on hydrology, i.a. river channel processes, hydrodynamic models, GIS.

Piotr Czarnocki

Head of Department at the Ministry of Climate, developing the “My Water” program working towards counteracting the drought in Poland. The initiative aims to install 20,000 home installations for retaining rain or thaw water, through individual grants of up to 5000 PLN.

As regards the water availability for agriculture, while on average Poland has a surplus on the Climatic Water Balance (the difference between precipitation and evaporation), during the period of vegetation (April to September) evaporation exceeds precipitation, resulting in water deficit in the soil.

slide presenting drought map od Poland seen on a screen
©A.Galica

Additionally, intensive melioration in the previous years deteriorated moisture absorption by the soils and presently, with the climate change, leads to extreme agricultural drought noted mainly in the western and central regions (Wielkopolska).

In order to improve the situation in the country, State Water Holdings - Polish Waters develops the Drought Prevention Plan (DECP) which focuses on creating and restoring small-scale water retention, construction and reconstruction of water devices, as well as proper agglomeration and spatial planning. Complementary actions include 600 small-scale water retention in agriculture through smaller investments focusing on change in irrigation systems in the fields. These programmes are aimed at damming of water in the canals and small rivers using the infrastructure of melioration – to make is two-way: store the water for drought period but also meliorate when necessary.

In the discussion also the Dutch perspective was presented. Martien Beek, representative of Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, explained that with extreme weather events increasing, the Netherlands has implemented a three-fold approach to battling drought:

  • infrastructure (improving storage of water and service waters),
  • decreasing water usage in agriculture, industry and by civilians,
  • raising awareness in the general population on water saving.

It is also crucial to involve local authorities, as they are responsible for designing the future and securing availability of water.

In conclusion, it was stated that possible solutions should focus on local actions, like improving soil infiltration, recharge of ground water, rebuilding of wetlands. The sustainable use of fertilizers in agriculture should also be focused on to protect waters available in Poland. Moreover, with the observed climate change, Polish farmers should make conscious decisions on crops grown on their fields and in certain areas, more threatened with drought, choose more resilient crops and use precision farming techniques.

LAN-WAR own report: A. Galica