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PAS experts: Natural water retnetion is a key factor in flood and drought prevention in Poland

Due to accelerating climate change the occurance of phenomenon such as droughts and floods will increase – emphasizes the Advisory Group for Climate Crisis appointed by the president of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Poland has one of the lowest water resources in Europe. Scholars call for comprehensive actions to increase water retention by protecting the natural landscape and small water rentention.

„During one year, both flood and drought may occur. Unusual, rare weather events will become commonplace. Moreover, the future weather and climate extremes will be more intense than those we know from the past, and consequently will negatively affect the inhabitants and the Polish economy” – we read in the statement issued by the Advisory Group for Climate Crisis on 12 June 2020. 

Major water problems

There are at least three water challenges facing the world today – water scarcity, destructive power of water excess and water pollution – all of which may be adversely affected by climate change. The rising temperatures in Poland may increase the risk of heat waves and droughts. We also observe changes in precipitation patterns. On one hand less snow in winter means there will be less melt water, which additionally aggrevates water stress. On the other hand, heavy rainfalls may result in flooding and bring contamination. 

How climate change will affect water managment?

Climate change will have significant impact on water resources, nature, the economy, and our daily life. For agriculture, totally dependent on rainfall, additional irrigation will be needed soon. Urban areas, where the impervious surfaces occupy a greater percentage of land, are prone to flash floods. 

What should we do?

The authors of the document indicate water retention as the solution to the future water deficit. Natural small water retention measures are ways to improve the potential of landscape to hold water during wet periods and then reuse this water during drought periods. The preservation of existing natural ecological enclaves in the landscape, aquatic environment and biodiversity are key factors to restore the water cycle. “Natural rivers and river valleys, wooded areas, meadows and wetlands effectively retain water and help mitigate the effects of agricultural and hydrological drought and reduce the risk of flooding” – emphasize the experts from the Polish Academy of Sciences. Urban areas, on the other hand, should be designed to utilize stormwater and slow its runoff. For this purpose, it is worth introducing green areas in urban planning.

Long-term planning

The researchers point out that we need “consistent, long-term, integrated and knowledge-based actions to (…) adapt to climate change (…) and reduce its negative impacts”. It is also important to stress that all of us should feel responsible for water resources, starting with planners, urbanists, farmers, foresters, power production specialists and ending with ordinary citizens. To solve the global water crisis we need to raise awareness on water issues and obtain broad public support.

About Advisory Group for Climate Crisis

The interdisciplinary Advisory Group for Climate Crisis has been appointed by the PAS President on April 16, 2020. The group consists of 16 experts representing various fields of science: from physics, biology and medicine, through energy, water management and spatial planning, to law and sociology.

The leader of the group is Prof. Szymon Malinowski, corresponding member of the Academy working at the Institute of Geophysics, University of Warsaw. He is an atmospheric physicist, science popularizer, co-creator of the Nauka o klimacie online portal.

The deputy chairman is Prof. Jacek Piskozub from the PAS Institute of Oceanology, while the secretary is Assoc. Prof. Iwona Wagner from the PAS European Regional Center for Ecohydrology. Prof. Paweł Rowiński, hydrologist associated with the PAS Institute of Geophysics as a representative of PAS Authorities supports the group.

The main task of the group will be providing scientific advice in reaching climate neutrality by Poland. Scholars will provide substantive support in creating climate policy and long-term strategy to shift our country to a zero carbon economy. The outcomes of these consultations may be used by state authorities as well as society and business.

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