Water management in the face of climate change

25 listopada 2020 r.

In our climatic zone, the amount of available water is largely affected by snowfall. It constitutes 15% to 20% of the annual rainfall and occurs from November to April. Unfortunately, a systematic increase in air temperature has been recorded in Poland since 1989. Such a tendency largely contributes to warmer winters that lack snow, which results in significantly reducing water resources.

On the threshold of the approaching winter, it is worth realizing that the snow cover has a significant impact on the natural environment as well as on various spheres of human activity. Due to its role in modifying the energy and moisture flux between the earth's surface and the atmosphere, it is considered as one of the main components of the global climate system (Brown & Goodison, 2005).
It is worth adding that snow serves a slightly different function than rain, because it melts slowly resulting in that water penetrates the soil gradually. Over the years, we have been observing a significant decrease in snowfall. Comparing the situation from the Winter of the Century at the turn of 1978/1979, when the snow cover in Poland was at the level of 30 to over 100 cm in various parts of the country, in 2009 or 2012 the cover did not exceed 10 cm. During the winter of 2019/2020, on average there was only 1 cm of snow recorded. Furthermore, according to data from the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management, temperatures were so high in December 2019 that it turned out to be one of the three winter months since 1951 with such high temperatures.
Unfortunately, the lack of snowfall and rising winter temperatures increase evaporation. This results in that a low or, at most, average water level in rivers is observed every year at the end of January. Additionally, the effects of climate warming include an increase in the occurrence of dangerous weather phenomena, such as rainfall that is sudden, short-lived, destructive, and results in an increasing number of floods. Rainfall data for July 2011, during which numerous sudden weather phenomena have also been observed, showed that rainfall standards were exceeded by up to 400% for the entire country.
Climate change has always determined the form of biological life on Earth and had an impact on the biological diversity of entire ecosystems. This is largely due to: reducing the period of snow cover deposition, increasing evaporation and as a consequence increasing the moisture deficit in the soil, as well as decreasing the water resources throughout the country.
In order to meet the problems and at the same time implement the provisions of the Water Framework Directive, the National Water Management Authority (PGW WP) reviews and updates the water management plans every 6 years. These plans constitute the basis for making decisions that shape the state of water resources and principles for managing them in the future.
One of the activities of PGW WP - small retention - also contributes to improving the condition of water in Poland. Due to the fact that we have no direct impact on snowfall or rainfall, it is extremely important to collect water using simple methods. This allows increasing water resources by changing from rapid surface runoff to slow land runoff. Constructing small reservoirs, water holes, and ponds, renaturalising small rivers, and protecting wetlands or bioretention (e.g. flower meadows that do not require intensive watering or mowing, bind moisture in the soil, and filter rainwater) are just some of the activities supported by the Polish Waters National Water Management Authority in order to protect the country's water resources.
The aforementioned renaturalisation consists in a series of activities undertaken by PGW WP as part of water management. It is a process of restoring the water environment, disturbed by human activity to, a state that is as close to the original as possible. The natural forms of rivers, such as meandering beds and vast valleys are capable of containing huge amounts of rainwater constituting a water supply for people, animals, and plants, especially after snowless winters. The negative effects of climate change that have an impact on reducing water resources, constitute the greatest contemporary challenge of renaturalisation. Do we pay a price for the lack of snow? Yes, because the "price of snow" is a common name for all of the costs that the world has to bear due to the fact that snow resources are decreasing. On the one hand, it is associated with losses in ecosystems, and on the other, it concerns the financial sphere. Alpine centers estimate that the cost of producing a cubic meter of snow is approx. 3-5 euro. Therefore, the lack of snow increases costs and forces to look for expensive, innovative, and not always environmentally friendly technological solutions.
In conclusion, every person is responsible for own actions and daily choices concerning unwise water use. That is why we should consider how to reduce our own contribution in terms of degrading water resources and the impact on climate change, and then hope for the return of the Polish snowy winters.

Source: wody.gov.pl; renaturyzacja KPRWP/Podrecznik_renaturyzacji.pdf; naukawpolsce.pap.pl; uni.wroc.pl; meteocentrum.pl; twojapogoda.pl; klimaga.mos.gov.pl; imgw.pl; rcin.org.pl; ochronaprzyrody.gdos.gov.pl; dobrapogoda24.pl; wwf.pl; ekologia.pl; naukaoklimacie.pl; „Śnieg jest w cenie” (Dzikiezycie.pl);
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